Two weeks ago, a Macon County newspaper announced it was closing. But after a public outcry, the paper is now determined to stay in print. Let’s go to the newsroom:
Vickie Carpenter has been at the Macon County News and Shopping Guide for 18 years. She is a photographer and helps manage the office. Here’s how she felt when she was told the paper was closing:
“Shocked. Overwhelmed. Heartbroken. And just devastated,” says Carpenter. “I just started thinking about all the things I was going to miss: the football games, prom, homecoming, the veterans. A lot of things.”
News of the closure lit up a local Facebook group. Contributing reporter Brittney Lofthouse launched a GoFundMe for the paper, so far it’s raised just over $1,000. Lofthouse says one cost for the paper has risen sharply in recent months - printing.
“Any money raised will go directly to offset that cost and really just cover the cost of printing the newspaper. Because other than personnel that’s a pretty hefty expense,” says Lofthouse, who has been at the paper for 10 years.
This struggle isn’t unique says, says Katerina Spasovska. She is head of the communications department at Western Carolina University. She says the business model of advertisers funding local newspapers has been broken for a long time.
“They need to find a different business model, says Spasovska, describing all of the local news outlets in the region.
Fixing that broken business model involves taking drastic actions according to Spasovska, a native of Macedonia who’s been teaching journalism at Western Carolina for nine years. One option is to do what the Salt Lake Tribune announced it would this week - become a nonprofit. She feels this unprecedented move is a better option for local news.
“Going to your local audience and saying I need you - I need your support to survive,” says Spasovska.
Local support is exactly what convinced Betsy Gooder, Macon County News publisher, to try to keep the paper running. They are trying to cut costs and win more advertisers. She and her husband started it back in 1982. She says they have 11 people on staff, including stringers and the delivery driver. Many aren’t full time.
“If everybody advertises like they should I hope to be here for another 37, 47, 50 years,” says Gooder.
In their Halloween issue, Gooder thanked people for their support and explained that their first cut is to close the office on Fridays. She says that selling the paper is also on the table.
“You are always for sale if the right price comes in,” says Gooder.
For now, one thing that won’t change is that the paper will remain free. The next issue comes out Thursday.