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Local newspapers play crucial role in democracy

National Newspaper Week will be observed through Saturday, a recognition of the service of newspapers and their employees across North America.

A Duke University study published in August shows that local newspapers significantly outperform local TV, radio and digital media outlets, not only in terms of overall output, but also in terms of coverage that is truly local — meaning that the stories are geographically local, original and serve a critical information need.

While local newspapers made up just 25% of the news outlets sampled in the study, they produced 60% of the news that met those three criteria.

Those numbers show that newspapers remain by the far the most important source of local journalism. The Daily News, we believe, is no exception.

In the interests of promoting better journalism, both the Michigan Press Association and the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors sponsor annual contests in which newspapers are invited to submit their work and have it judged by colleagues from another state. The Daily News, again, was well-represented in the contests.

In the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors newspaper competition, The Daily News earned four awards:

— Best Full Page Design: first place, News Editor Jim Anderson for “Year in Review.”

— Best Column: second place, Managing Editor Betsy Bloom for “Northwoods Notebook.”

— Best Digital Presence: second place for www.ironmountaindailynews.com as well as the newspaper’s Facebook page.

— Best Headline Writing: third place for a sampling of entries.

The Daily News competed in Division 1, for all Michigan newspapers with a daily circulation under 10,000. Entries were judged by newspaper professionals from Ohio.

As announced earlier, The Daily News won a pair of awards in the Michigan Press Association’s 2018 Better Newspaper Contest.

Bloom took first place in the Best Columnist category for “Northwoods Notebook.” Theresa Proudfit placed third in the Photo Story category for images of flowers and other natural attractions on Fumee Lake trails. Both awards were in Class C, for daily newspapers with circulation of 5,001 to 11,000.

Recognitions aside, the best tribute a newspaper can receive is support from its community. According to a study published last year by the University of North Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism, upwards of 1,300 communities that had newspapers of their own in 2004 now have none.

“The stakes are high,” the researchers said in their report. “Our sense of community and our trust in democracy at all levels suffer when journalism is lost or diminished. In an age of fake news and divisive politics, the fate of communities across the country — and of grassroots democracy itself — is linked to the vitality of local journalism.”

While no newspaper will ever perfectly serve its community or readership, allowing a news vacuum in its place is a chilling alternative, indeed.

A few years back, a bumper sticker fairly summarized our view: “Support democracy: Subscribe.”

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