Story last updated at 7:16 PM on Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Homer News, other papers like it, thrive as industry falters

You may have heard the APRN report a couple of weeks ago: "The owner of the Juneau Empire, the Homer News and the Peninsula Clarion is in financial trouble. The papers are all owned by Morris Publishing Group in Georgia. One analyst says there's a greater than a 50 percent chance Morris will have to default on its debts."

Since then, concerned readers have called and e-mailed, asking: What does it mean? What's going on? Is everyone OK?

First, thanks for your concern. Life at the Homer News is good -- busy and good.

Second, like a lot of other industries, the newspaper industry including the Homer News' parent company is in trouble, and the trouble basically boils down to this: too much debt.

While big newspapers are floundering to re-establish their identity on the ever-growing information superhighway and regain their foothold in the marketplace, community newspapers -- like the Homer News -- are doing fine. It's one reason over the past several years bigger papers have tried to emulate their much smaller cousins by focusing on the formula that makes community newspapers successful: local news.

Community newspapers play a different role than do big papers and other media outlets. Yes, both provide information, but the information is different. It's journalism, but not usually what you'll hear on the network news. That's because it's local, all local, all the time.

Community newspapers all over the globe could steal the motto of the Mason Valley News, a weekly in Yerington, Nev., just by inserting the name of their community in place of Yerington: "The only newspaper in the world that gives a damn about Yerington."

Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th president of the United States, understood the importance of community newspapers. He described their role this way: "I believe that the country weekly acts as a form of social cement in holding the community together."

The Homer News and thousands of newspapers like it serve as barometers and mirrors for their communities -- reflecting both the good and the bad; giving all residents an outlet for their opinions; shining a spotlight on all kinds of things, big and small, that deserve a community's attention. Our goal is to give people good information -- the kind of information on which they can make wise decisions, the kind of information that makes their lives a little easier because it keeps them in touch with what's going on in their community.

It's a huge responsibility and a great privilege.

So, where does that leave the future of the Homer News and the newspaper industry? Of the approximate 9,300 newspapers in the United States, 97 percent of them are considered community newspapers and the industry consensus is these papers are thriving and their future looks bright.

In these uncertain economic times, nothing is guaranteed, but for 44 years now the Homer News has served Homer and surrounding communities. 2009 marks our 45th anniversary. We're planning a party to celebrate and we're looking forward to the next 45 years.

It's because of you -- our advertisers, our readers, our neighbors, our critics -- we're here. We couldn't be more grateful for your support.