Monday, January 17, 2011

Newspapers Eyeing Our Turf

February 1967
  We should have known not to brag too much in our editorials about our town and its bright future.
  Seems as though those in the advertising business took the reports to heart. As a result, there is a throw-away “shopper” appearing in the area and now a Macomb County newspaper owned by a Port Huron company says it intends to circulate in the Rochester area.
  Three years ago when our rival, the Rochester News, was for sale, a couple of prospective buyers dropped in to see us. We warned them that it was a poor investment. Rochester’s business community just isn’t big enough to support two newspapers. (Sometimes we wonder about Detroit’s.) But they bought it anyway. Two years later, The News quietly folded. The owner admitted that he should have been listening when he was talking.
  It is always tempting for newspapers to look across the fence. A couple of years ago when the publisher of the Utica Sentinel was bucking school propositions and stirring up such a ruckus that the citizenry was picketing his office, we received appeals from citizens and advertisers to start a newspaper over there. “We’ll back you to the hilt,” they promised.
  BUT MOST WEEKLY newspapers, except in the suburbs, have an unwritten law to “keep on your own side of the fence.” It’s common sense that putting out one newspaper covering one community can do a more comprehensive job than one reaching itself over a half dozen towns. Sooner or later, one will fail or be absorbed by the other.
  We turned down the request for a “Utica Clarion” because we were certain that the whole messy thing there would someday blow over. And it did. The superintendent resigned. The publisher later supported another school bond issue. To top it off, he sold the business.
  Why would other publications like to penetrate Rochester? Not because they are really interested in facing our complex problems or how to solve them. The owners, in fact, are usually not interested enough to even live here. Their interest is in the advertising revenue they can wring out of the business community, which they hope will grow by leaps and bounds, according to the predictions of the experts. Trouble is, there aren’t many more stores in our town now than there were 10 years ago. So the trend is to combine all the ads and news from several different communities into one large publication.
  The diluting of news and advertising from many towns causes each of the communities to lose its identity. In these days of massive sewage and water systems and the shadow of Oakland County, Detroit and the State hovering over local municipalities, most communities are struggling to retain their own identity. The hometown newspaper remains one of the last outposts.
  THERE ARE NOW about 7,400 families a week reading The Clarion and they pay to read it. We’re betting that advertisers and readers alike will continue to support their “Hometown Newspaper in the Heart of the Hills.” At least we’re going to try harder to see that you do.