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Efforts underway to support Iowa small-town newspapers

Author: Charles Yier

Supporting Iowa small-town newspapers

An alarming reality is plaguing small-town newspapers nationwide, sparing not even Iowa, a state known for its high number of them per capita. Despite this seemingly favorable statistic, a closer look reveals a harsher truth. Local newspapers are encountering similar challenges, ranging from acquisitions and downsizing by hedge funds to diminishing ad revenue resulting from competition with tech giants. These newspapers, long-standing pillars of their communities, now confront significant threats to their existence. 

Against this backdrop, the University Library, in collaboration with key stakeholders such as the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, the Iowa Newspaper Association, and various newspaper publishers, initiated discussions to explore potential strategies for addressing this crisis. Given that a significant portion of ISU students hail from within the state, along with ISU Extension and Outreach programs that may benefit from locally sourced information, the invaluable role of these publications cannot be overstated. 

As a result, the library is in the early stages of partnering with cooperative local newspaper publishers to establish institutional subscriptions to their online publications. The library’s E-Resources Unit has successfully coordinated with the publisher of the Pulitzer-prize winning Storm Lake Times Pilot and the Cherokee Chronicle Times to provide all ISU students, faculty, and staff access to the online version of both papers through an institutional site license. Both offer archival access dating back to 2011 and 2005, respectively. The work done to establish these subscriptions potentially lays the groundwork for more Iowa colleges and universities to directly support local journalism in this way, and efforts are underway at ISU to include additional titles. Other Iowa newspapers, primarily accessed through third-party platforms, can be found on the Finding Newspapers research guide.