Commentary, Opinion

Winning formula: Support local media and businesses

The following editorial was first published in the Deerfield Valley News in Wilmington, Vermont.

Just in case readers haven’t noticed, it’s an election year. Of course, there is much focus on the presidential election. Understandably so, given all that is at stake with the future of the country and everything.

But there are also statewide elections on the horizon, and those elections might have more impact on the day-to-day life of Vermonters than who ends up claiming the White House or Congress in November.

On Aug. 11, a little more than a month away, Vermonters will vote in statewide primary elections. While it’s important that people vote, either in person or by mail, it’s also important that candidates realize that how their campaign dollars are spent has an impact in their communities.

There has been a statewide push by local media to encourage candidates to “buy local” when it comes to their media choices.

Cathy Resmer, deputy publisher of Seven Days, put it plainly and succinctly in an editorial a couple of weeks ago. She wrote, in part, that “Candidates for elected office in Vermont and around the country routinely advertise their campaigns on Facebook and Google, sending money to Silicon Valley rather than to the local media outlets that write about them day in and day out, responsibly informing the citizenry so voters understand the choices before them.

“These digital ad platforms never write or broadcast a word of journalism, nor do they cultivate or invest in Vermont communities. Exempt from the libel laws that regulate traditional publishers, they have become conduits for misinformation, discredited sources, nefarious actors, and conspiracy theories.” Put another way, Facebook and Google aren’t covering local issues or statewide government. They don’t care a whit about what happens in your town. Local newspapers do.

Vermont media is fighting an uphill battle to survive every day. Candidates who profess to care about their state and their communities can show some of that caring by supporting the local media that report on them. Millions of dollars will be spent on campaigns in Vermont between now and November. By putting some of those dollars back into local communities, by including local media as part of their strategy, candidates can show how much they value the efforts of local journalists and the companies they work for.

Also, there’s a Facebook boycott going on right now, mostly because of Facebook’s unwillingness to moderate hate speech. Does any candidate think being tied to hate speech is a winning formula right now? OK, maybe there’s one (at least on a national level), but that strategy probably won’t draw enough votes in Vermont elections to win anything.

Resmer noted that Vermont media outlets are working hard to keep the real, fact-checked news coming. She made some solid points asking candidates, businesses, and readers to support local media and local businesses.

Here they are:
•    Running for office? Restrict your campaign advertising to trusted local sources that cover, cultivate, and invest in our communities. Use social media sites to share your message, but do not support them financially. Surveys show that people who read local newspapers and their websites are more likely to vote. Even in the middle of a pandemic, there’s still time to get in front of those folks before the August primaries.
•    Businesses, invest in your communities by advertising locally. Your customers will notice and thank you for it.
•    Vermonters, support your local media outlet by subscribing and donating, and make a conscious effort to patronize the businesses that advertise in it.

We agree with those points, and hope others do as well.

With national politics threatening to run off the rails as the country barrels headlong toward November, local and statewide candidates can do a lot of good by keeping their ad dollars local.

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