It’s no secret that the embattled newspaper industry constantly strives to get new readers. Doing so is tantamount to survival.
Attracting and keeping younger readers (which these days means anyone younger than age 50 or so) is a continuous goal of every paper. As longtime, dedicated readers die, the fear is that fewer newspaper readers will be replacing them. Making newspapers matter to younger readers is a never-ending mission in a society that, unfortunately, relies on social media and electronic newsfeeds for much of its information.
Which makes the Ewing South Post sparkle like a diamond.
Started by three kids in Minneapolis in May 2020, the neighborhood newspaper does everything on a small scale that local newspapers have done for centuries. The paper debuted at the start of the pandemic in an attempt to keep the neighborhood of 29 residences connected, offering news about the people who live there.
More than 17 issues later, it’s still doing that, thanks to a warm reception from its readers and the dogged determination of its staff made up of the 11-year-old editor, her twin brother and 9-year-old sister.
And here’s a favorite part for every veteran newspaper journalist who still understands the value of people passing around a newspaper in the YMCA lobby or framing an article for the wall: The kids chose to print the newspaper rather than send out an electronic version.
These are the golden words of the 9-year-old copy editor, Lucia Olson, explaining their choice to the Star Tribune: “We wanted to have physical copies for people to read because it’s nice to have something you can hold and actually touch. Virtual learning was happening then, and everybody was on their computers a lot, so we thought people would want to escape from technology by reading something printed on paper.”
But besides warming the hearts of old journalists, those words remind us of how personal a newspaper is to people, how it prints words about their friends, family members, neighbors, leaders and yes, trouble makers. The paper is for, about and created by the people of the community so we all know more about the place we live.
And the Ewing South Post, like other newspapers, reaches beyond the neighborhood’s physical borders. Issues have been mailed to at least four different states, residents said. So “community” is a much broader concept, a way to connect people wherever they are by sharing information and experiences.
A recent survey commissioned by the Minnesota Newspaper Association offers promising news about newspaper readership. The survey, done this fall, determined that 86% percent of Minnesota adults, or 3.9 million people, have read a local newspaper either in print or online in the last 30 days.
Newspapers will continue to fight for readers in this competitive world of information overflow, but the project of three Minnesota kids to communicate effectively through the written word provides hope that young people are figuring out how to become compassionate, informed citizens.