Neuharth lauds community papers

Neuharth lauds community papers
USA Today founder and Eureka native Al Neuharth said South Dakota newspapers have done a better job in preserving the mission of a newspaper than other places in the country.

Newspapering in South Dakota was only one of the many issues Neuharth discussed at the 124th annual South Dakota Newspaper Association Convention Friday night, May 19, at the Al Neuharth Media Center in Vermillion.

"I do think in South Dakota that newspapers have become more concentrated in ownership and have become better at the same time," Neuharth said.

The fact that most newspapers in South Dakota are close to their readers is one of the main reasons print journalism has been doing well when compared to newspapers in bigger cities.

"Small-town newspapers are more fair because someone in town would know if the newspaper cheated or lied," Neuharth said.

That closeness to readers, Neuharth said, is what will allow South Dakota newspapers to survive longer while the use of metropolitan newspapers declines.

However, Neuharth also said that those small-town newspapers need to continue focusing on the audience's needs.

"The audience has certainly changed in South Dakota in the last 50 years," Neuharth said. "It's more diverse. People are more interested in things beyond their own backyard."

Besides focusing on South Dakota newspapers, Neuharth also talked about the print industry as a whole.

"They (newspapers) are much better generally. They're more lively. They're more interesting. They have to be in order to survive," he said.

With the Internet as a competitor to the newspaper industry, Neuharth said those in the print business have learned to take advantage of the technology.

"Almost all newspaper owners have embraced the Internet, and they're working with it rather than against it," he said. "There really is a greater hunger for news and information everywhere in the world than there ever has been in history."

Unfortunately, the problem with the Internet is that unreliable information can also be posted by users such as bloggers, and Neuharth expressed his concern on the issue.

"I think the age of the bloggers has led to more misinformation than at anytime in our history ? but I would be very concerned if there were strong sentiment to arise to have Congress decide what bloggers can and cannot do," he said.

The solution, Neuharth said, is that people will have to learn the difference between information that is credible and information that is not.

Neuharth also stated his opinion on recent issues including the controversial National Security Administration (NSA) enterprise story in USA Today about the government acquiring private phone records.

"I hope what we saw was a good example of enterprise reporting," Neuharth of the NSA story. "It seems to me that there's been enough reaction from the White House, the government and the telephone companies, so there has to be something there that they're very much afraid of exploiting on."

Jack Marsh, executive director of the Al Neuharth Media Center, served as the moderator for the evening.

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