Recently I read about yet another change in the newspaper industry. A recent Sunday night marked the last edition of the Union Leader to be printed on a Union Leader press. It is now printed on a press in Dover, which is owned by the Seacoast Media Group, a Portsmouth-based printing company with some 170 clients, including the Nashua Telegraph, Foster's Daily Democrat, the Laconia Sun, Portsmouth Herald and, now, the Union Leader.
Union Leader Publisher Joe McQuaid wrote: "Newspapers large and small are making decisions similar to ours. You either become a commercial hub, printing many titles, or you become a customer, as we are doing."
It occurs to me that this shift and consolidation of resources, which may on the surface seem like another blow to the newspaper business, is actually part of the evolution that all businesses, including newspapers, must undergo at one time or another to stay relevant and successful into the future.
We're all familiar with the new realities and challenges facing the newspaper industry in the age of the Internet, bloggers, social media pundits and citizen journalists. As a result, newspapers are being forced to rethink strategies and focus their limited resources on what really matters to readers: content.
A parallel is what has happened to the advanced manufacturing industry in our state. Manufacturers, facing tough competition from other states and countries, have been forced to reevaluate business models, discover new and leaner methods of operation, and sometimes move high-volume, lower-value business functions elsewhere, even overseas. However, research and development, prototyping, and high-margin manufacturing are thriving in New Hampshire and represent an incredibly important part of the state's economy.
Similarly, high-value content — information — is the key value proposition of the newspaper industry and is what makes newspapers a vital component of our lives. While printing itself may be outsourced in an effort to cut costs and remain viable, the value newspapers offer is their commitment to focused, thorough and accurate reporting.
For business leaders, newspapers are an important conduit for information and analysis from a variety of sources — the Legislature, state and local regulatory agencies, police and fire, public utilities, and of course other businesses — that all impact business operations in some way. Business leaders cannot make sound decisions without regular and reliable information, and much of that information and analysis is only available through newspapers.
To the citizenry, newspapers are an important way to stay informed and educated about many issues that affect how we live our lives: where we choose to live, work and play; where we send our children to school; how we spend our money or donate our time; and, perhaps most importantly, how we vote.
For a state like New Hampshire, which has 424 elected state senators and representatives who introduce hundreds of bills each year, the importance of quality reporting on the legislative process cannot be understated. An unbiased press corps reporting on legislation and public policy that offers insight and analysis to help the public understand all points of view is absolutely invaluable to our democracy.
The next time you pick up a copy of your newspaper, stop and think for a moment where you would go and how much time it would take you to gather all of this information yourself. And think about how your life might be different if you weren't able to do this and therefore never received the information to begin with. The answers should encourage you to keep reading your local newspaper.
Jim Roche is president of the Business and Industry Association, New Hampshire's statewide chamber of commerce.