On Feb. 7, the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union Tribune, both owned by the publishing company Tronc, Inc., were sold to Patrick Soon-Shiong of the investment firm Nant Capital LLC. The deal is the most recent one in a long line of past transactions in the ownership of both newspapers.
Print newspapers such as these have struggled to stay in business as technology has slowly replaced the need, and the demographic, for print news. National and international news is available with the click of a button, and this is slowly edging out news outlets that seek to cover these stories in print. While the fate of the LA Times and the San Diego UT is yet to be seen under their new ownership, other smaller, local news outlets continue to be of importance and relevance in the communities that they cover.
One such news outlet in San Diego is the San Diego Community News Group. Covering the areas of La Jolla, University City, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, and Point Loma, the newspaper group publishes three newspapers: The Peninsula Beacon, The La Jolla Village News, and Beach and Bay Press.
The entrance to the newsroom, which sits on top of the local Wendy’s in Pacific Beach, is lined with newspapers, visible right at the front door. Inside, employees work to put together the week’s latest newspapers, which are published biweekly for a total of 62,000 papers combined. On the main wall resides a plaque that reads, “Goals are achieved with perseverance.”
Dave Schwab, the primary full-time reporter for all three papers, has worked for the SD news group for four and a half years. He said that local newspapers have survived in the shift from print to electronic news because it is the niche that is left.
“If you want to know what going on in your backyard, that’s what the community newspapers are there for,” said Schwab. “They have always done a better job because they are in direct contact with people. That is why we are still in business.”
The news group is also straddling the modern shift, as the papers are also published online and shared via social media with all of the major stories. Even so, their coverage remains completely local. Schwab credits the success of the paper with its ability to stay in touch with the community and with its capacity to contribute to the conversations happening in the city.
“Most people I talk to think that print is in the throws of major changes and the fate of the major metropolitan dailies is uncertain,” said Schwab. “But most people still seem to feel that the local community newspaper is here to stay. What survives, printwise, out of this will be the local niche.”
Community newspapers are also very important to local businesses. Businesses have the opportunity to advertise in the paper, some of who have been doing so for twenty years or more. Business are also often covered in local papers, and have the chance to show what is unique about them. Heather Long, the sales manager at San Diego Community News Group, said community news is important because people want to know targeted information about what is going on in the community and in community businesses.
“They just want to hear about a football team that is winning, or a team at PLNU that is killing it,” said Long. “They just want to hear feel good stories. I think it makes everyone feel a little bit better about how life is sometimes.”
Another newspaper providing local news to San Diego is the OB Rag. Covering the area of Ocean Beach, Frank Gormlie, the editor of the online paper, said that he started the paper because people were craving local news in San Diego that was not being covered by the mass media.
“We really wanted to get into community issues,” said Gormlie. “And Ocean Beach has plenty.”
Gormlie said their paper provides a platform for debate in Ocean Beach, and seeks to provide information on topics, such as urban planning and council meetings in their entirety, that could not otherwise be covered.
“We have seen our readership jump when we started covering things you could not get elsewhere,” Gormlie said. The OB Rag tracks their readership count, which averages 1,500 views a day. Gormlie said the counts on news that can only be found locally consistently scores higher than other news organizations.
Among this local news is a story that the OB Rag wrote about a Torrey Pines tree that the city was going to cut down. They wrote about the issue, and the tree was ultimately saved, with great thanksgiving from OB residents. It is stories such as this one that makes local news relevant and important in media today.