OPINION: Supporting local journalism is critical during COVID-19 crisis

There is no shortage of news about the trials facing small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. 

In fact, a study released this week by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows that 52 percent of small business owners surveyed said they expect to go out of business within six months due to the shutdowns meant to slow the virus’ spread.

More than half of the businesses surveyed had laid off employees during the crisis and 62 percent reported revenue losses over the past month. 

“Small business is truly the backbone of our economy. So, when half say they’re worried about being wiped out, let’s remember: We’re talking about roughly 14 million businesses,” stated SHRM President Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., adding, “You can’t sugarcoat that reality.”

The same goes for the reality of locally owned newspapers — a small business model often overlooked in the COVID-19 impact reports.

The stark reality for many local newspapers is that this crisis will likely be the nail in a coffin that has been under construction since the Great Recession. 

In early April, The Guardian reported that newspapers across the United States would face an “extinction-level” event due to the coronavirus.  The newspaper definitely did not sugarcoat it: “The devastating sweep of COVID-19 is the biggest story in a generation, and for most newspapers and news sites it has triggered record numbers of readers. Yet the virus, industry experts warn, will spell the end for hundreds of those organizations, laying off journalists and closing titles.”

Advertising revenues across the newspaper industry dropped off almost immediately when COVID-19 hit. 

Like so many other local businesses, the Post-Record has been hit hard by the current crisis. And, like other businesses facing sudden and unexpected revenue losses, we have tightened our belt to its last hole.

Meanwhile, we are working as hard as we possibly can, often working over the weekends and late into the night, to fulfill our duties as staffers for the area’s paper of record. In the course of just seven weeks, the Post-Record has published 70 articles, editorials and guest columns about the coronavirus crisis. We currently have another 10 stories in the hopper. This is in addition to the other issues we have continued to cover during this crisis, including our breaking report on a former Camas mayor accused of stealing public funds. 

All of this content goes onto our website, free of charge. We know from monthly reports that we have hundreds more online readers than we do subscribers. This is not meant to shame our online readers who cannot afford to pay for a subscription. We believe everyone needs to have access to the latest news and even those “feel good” stories while this crisis unfolds.

But we would be lying if we said we weren’t struggling along with many local businesses. We need people to subscribe and support their local newspaper. We also need local advertisers to show they support quality local journalism efforts. 

The research into what happens when a local newspaper shutters shows that it’s not just the journalists who suffer but also the community as a whole. Without a local paper of record, cities often experience a slight uptick in interest rates for multi-million dollar bonds to construct roads, build schools and take care of critical infrastructure — often adding up to hundreds of thousands of dollars for taxpayers over just one decade. 

What’s more, research shows that areas without local newspapers tend to have fewer political candidate choices and that voters often become more partisan, leading to a less diverse and effective local government. 

The Post-Record strives to produce the best journalism we can with such a small staff — and our efforts have paid off. We have won more than two dozen journalism awards in just two years, including back-to-back, first-place “General Excellence” awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association and 11 first-place awards for our reporting in 2018 and 2019. We’ve also had two staff members win recent statewide “writer of the year” awards, including editor Kelly Moyer’s “News Writer of the Year” award in 2018 and then-sports reporter Dan Trujillo’s “Sports Writer of the Year” award in 2017. 

There are other publications that cover Camas and Washougal events, but none of them have produced the quality journalism found inside the pages of the Post-Record and its sister paper, The Columbian. 

Supporting newspapers like the Post-Record does more than just help us hold steady during the COVID-19 crisis; it helps insure that Camas-Washougal will have quality journalism — written by trained reporters who are not beholden to advertisers, corporate messaging or local politicians — for generations to come. 

To subscribe to the Post-Record today, visit camaspostrecord.com/subscribe/ or call 360-694-2312. The cost of an annual subscription is $75 for local delivery or $135 to receive the paper in the mail. 

To inquire about advertising with us in our print edition or online, please contact the Post-Record’s advertising representative, Shelly Atwell, at shelly.atwell@camaspostrecord.com. 

And to our dedicated subscribers and advertisers who have stuck with us throughout these stressful times: we appreciate you more than you could ever know. Thank you for supporting local journalism and for helping us maintain our standing as Camas-Washougal’s newspaper of record for years to come.

Please review our community guidelines