OPINION: It's National Newspaper Week, but The Sumter Item is here for the community every day


Newspapers keep closing, yet we produce most of the news you read, even if you don't read it from us.

More than a fourth of the country's newspapers vanished in the 15 years leading up to 2020. So did jobs for half of all journalists. Since 2018, 300 papers closed. Studies from UNC's Hussman School of Journalism and Media show private equity firms and hedge funds continue to merge large chains, while advertisers continue to make hard decisions about their spending.

All this while local newspapers outperform local TV, radio and online-only outlets in news production. According to a Duke study, while local newspapers accounted for nearly 60% of the local content in the 2019 study, they accounted for only 25% of the outlets sampled.

We need local news.

Social media isn't news. It's a platform on which we share news. When Facebook went down earlier this week, where did you go to find out what happened? Maybe you went to Twitter for the funny reactions, but you likely went to a news outlet's website to learn what was behind the digital meltdown.

This week marks the 81st rendition of National Newspaper Week, a time when we recognize the service of newspapers and their employees across North America.

We attend meetings so you don't have to. Trust me, we know most of you don't go to them. We monitor how the people you elect to local office are spending your tax dollars. We file and pay for Freedom of Information Act requests on your behalf. We fact-check so you know what's accurate.

We spend Friday nights on the sidelines and Saturdays at community events so you can see what's happening around you and even save an article if you see yourself or a family member. We show both what's happening in school board meetings and classrooms, both city council votes and public festivals.

We make sure to correct wrongs and give the mic to all the voices that make up the place we call home.

We keep alive the memory of those who are missing, and we remember those who are gone. We celebrate achievements and shine a spotlight on wrongdoing.

And we're doing all of this in a time of rebirth for newspapers. Because we're not dying. We're reinventing ourselves, rebuilding like a phoenix from its ink-stained ashes to deliver community-based news and relevant state and national stories online, in video, on social media, in podcasts and to your email inboxes. We host events and contests and promote local businesses.

This year's theme for National Newspaper Week is "Community Forum," which is perfect for us. Community is what we're all about. We are real people doing real work solely for the benefit of the community. We're analyzing the data of what you actually read, and that's informing our coverage so we can deliver content that matters to you. We're five meetings into our inaugural Local News Advisory Board, where we hear from a group of 24 community leaders, officials, activists and stakeholders about what they want covered in their local newspaper.

We want to inform and entertain, celebrate, build and support a more knowledgeable and more connected community. Because without you, there is no us.

Kayla Green is the executive editor of The Sumter Item and Gulf Coast Media in Baldwin County, Alabama.