Earlier this week Judy Woodruff of the “PBS NewsHour” reported on the demise of The Canadian Record, an independently owned weekly newspaper that served the community of Canadian, Texas. Woodruff hits on themes familiar to readers of this space, including the loss of more than 2,000 newspapers in recent decades as well as the rise of polarization and the decline in voter turnout, both of which are related to a lack of reliable news and information at the local level.
The news from Canadian turns out to be not quite as grim as most of the story would suggest. We learn toward the end that publisher Laurie Brown and others continue to post occasional stories to the website and to the Record’s Facebook page, and that she’s currently seeking a buyer for the paper. But it’s certainly grim enough, as neither she nor her contributors are getting paid.
As optimistic as I am about the future of local news, there are parts of the country that are just hard. Places like Canadian, a small town in the rural Texas Panhandle, are especially difficult, as they lack the population base to sustain a news outlet now that most advertising has migrated to the internet. Such places also frequently lack the social capital needed to launch a nonprofit news organization.
I hope the Record finds a buyer, although, if she does, the new owner is going to face exactly the same kinds of challenges that proved insurmountable for Brown.