Local news is what we do best
I was recently honored to be interviewed for a profile story by a staff writer for the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.
The mission of the PNA, headquartered in Harrisburg, is to “advance the business interests of Pennsylvania news media organizations and to promote a free and independent press.”
According to the PNA writer, the eight Lehigh Valley Press weekly newspapers were chosen because we focus on “hyperlocal” news.
Reporting exclusively on local news is something that, apparently, is going by the wayside as more and more newspapers are being sold or merged - or just shutting their doors.
The key to the success of the eight weekly newspapers is that we are members of several families - the Pencor Services family and the family of communities we serve, which includes the families of our readers.
The Pencor family tree includes the purchase of the Emmaus Free Press Sept. 1, 1987 (now the East Penn Press) and the addition two years later of the Parkland Press.
Under the vision of Scott Masenheimer, now publisher of the weekly newspapers, the Whitehall-Coplay Press followed in 1992 and, in 1994, the Northwestern Press hit the streets.
The Northampton Press, which debuted in 1998, was followed in 2000 by publication of the Salisbury Press and the Catasauqua Press in 2003.
On Oct. 5, 2005, the Bethlehem Press began reporting that community’s local news.
The Lehigh Valley Press weekly newspapers have always focused on providing quality in-depth local news to foster and strengthen a spirit of community within each of the eight school districts for which we provide coverage.
To do anything different would be anathema to our mission.
According to Fort Worth Press Editor John H. Sorrells, in his 1930 book “The Working Press,” the news is what interests people - money, struggle, adventure, success.
Sorrells stated a newspaper must serve its audience: the mother, the store owner, the banker, the educated and the uneducated.
A newspaper must talk to different people but all of whom are “human.”
Sorrells said a newspaper must also be “human”: kindly, intimate, honest, friendly, “just folks.”
He said in order to talk to a complex audience, the newspaper must get close to the readers, know them and mingle with them.
The owners, editors, reporters and photographers of The Lehigh Valley Press’ eight weekly newspapers are part of the communities we serve.
The independent contractors for the weekly newspapers include retired teachers, principals, volunteer firefighters, lawyers and housewives. They live in the community, work in the community, have kids in the local schools and go to the local houses of worship.
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, our reporters either attend in-person or via Zoom borough council meetings, township supervisors’ meetings and county commissioners’ meetings, providing news on grassroots politics at its very core.
According to Pencor Executive Vice President and TIMES NEWS Publisher Fred Masenheimer, the weekly newspapers hope to survive for quite some time.
“Twenty or 30 years ago, we were being told the time of newspapers was limited. We are fortunate to be part of a corporation that took that warning seriously and diversified. We were already a cable TV provider and owned an independent telephone company, but we went even further.
“We started an internet company, partnering with several other local cable and telephone companies, and were the first in the country to offer high-speed internet over cable.
“We also purchased interests in two coverage areas of one of the wireless phone companies - and everyone knows what has happened to the cellphone business.
“We also expanded into commercial printing so we had that to keep us going if the newspaper business faltered.
“We continue to remain a strong and viable company in a time that has proved to be difficult for many businesses to survive.
“I still believe there are a lot of people who want to sit down, relax and hold a local newspaper in their hands and read what is going on in their community and how the actions of their local government will affect their lives.”
Masenheimer also discussed the future of the eight weekly newspapers and our mission.
“I think we don’t plan to change much. Our model of delivering local news centered on government activities that affect our readers’ daily lives and school district activities including sports and activities for the families that buy our newspapers with plenty of features about the areas we cover and the people who live there seems to be working for us.”
Community newspapers are of the community, by the community and for the community.
And, this is what makes us successful “hyperlocal” local newspapers.