Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Small-town Papers Alive and Well in Utah

While there are days, production Mondays usually, when he might fantasize about its demise, Bill Boyle, editor and publisher of the San Juan Record, is proud to say the paper's popularity is as strong as ever.

Eighteen years ago, when he left his job as a banker in Seattle and moved back to his hometown to buy its weekly newspaper, the print circulation was about 2,000.

Eighteen years later, it's still about 2,000, plus 400 online subscribers.

That doesn't mean there aren't headaches. Costs have gone up over the years while revenue —the classified ad line has shrunk a bit —has gone down, but in the Internet Age that is leveling big-city newspapers right and left, the small-town weeklies are hanging in there.

Helping prove the point was a book released nationally a year ago: "Emus Loose in Egnar: Big Stories from Small Towns," written by NPR's Judy Muller.

Muller crisscrossed the "blue roads" of the country, visiting weeklies from coast to coast. When she was finished, she wrote, "This just in: journalism is not dead. It is alive and kicking in small towns all across America thanks to the editors of weekly newspapers who, for very little money and a fair amount of aggravation, keep on telling it like it is."

One of those editors she profiled was Bill Boyle of the San Juan Record.

Muller praised Boyle's diligence as an editor and detailed the delicate balance he had to walk as a reporter and community member when the Indian artifacts bust decimated San Juan County three years ago.

At first, back before the Internet complicated everything, he could concentrate just on running the paper. Now he wears many more hats. But if the economic realities for newspapers have changed, even for weeklies, the content and popularity of the San Juan Record hasn't.

"The paper is still the community gathering spot," he says. "People still look for it in their mailbox. They still want the local flavor, they want to disagree. Where else are you going to read about a controlled burn that goes out of control? I don't think that will end up in the Wall Street Journal."

And out here in the country, away from Craigslist and eBay, people still advertise their real estate and job openings in the classifieds. Deseret News