Thursday, November 18, 2021

Holiday shopping -- buy local, give newspapers -- Nov. 18, 2021 column


Now more than ever, it’s the time to shop locally and buy American.

With the supply chain strained, tech and other goods made overseas are on slow boats from China, and if they arrive at all, are more expensive.  

Fortunately, not everyone is lusting after hard-to-find Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5. But everything from imported booze to sneakers is expected to be in shorter supply and cost more this holiday season.

As anyone who has tried to buy American knows, however, it’s difficult when so much of what we consume is made overseas. But it’s possible.

Try shopping at a farmers’ market or farm stand for stocking stuffers like jams and specialty olive oils, at holiday markets for local arts and crafts, and at independent bookstores. Seek out Virginia wine and craft beer. Visit a nursery, buy a tree to plant in the yard and help the environment.

Think of experiences instead of things – a gift certificate to a local restaurant, spa or car wash. (Why not be practical?) A museum or gym membership, tickets to a local theatre, concert or classes to learn a new language or hobby.

Small Business Saturday is Nov. 27, a time when local businesses offer promotions and discounts to lure shoppers. These retailers especially need our patronage now.

Roughly 200,000 more small businesses than usual closed permanently in the first year of the pandemic, the Federal Reserve reported. That’s about one-quarter or one-third more than in a typical year.

Shopping small is good for the local economy and your neighbors. You can find more ideas about shopping small at #shopsmall and in your local newspaper.

And that brings me to another idea for your holiday shopping: Give a newspaper subscription. Or give two -- one local and one national.

If you’re reading this, you’re already a newspaper reader. Thank you. Why not treat yourself or give a digital or print subscription to friends or family, in town or away. Many a child has learned to read through the newspaper.

This isn’t a sympathy pitch for newspapers, although it’s no secret newspaper circulations are shrinking, and hundreds of local papers are dying.

More than one-fourth of American newspapers have disappeared in the last 15 years, with 300 newspapers closing in the past two years alone, the Tow Center for Digital Journalism reported.

COVID-19 further depressed the newspaper business. Hit by furloughs as well as staff and pay cuts, newspaper people were working harder with less to bring you the news.

The center’s online survey in August of reporters, editors and publishers at papers with print circulations under 50,000, which is about 97% of the market, found more than a third were working 50 to 60 hours a week, and half worked 40 to 50 hours a week. 

We need to support local journalism these days. The role of the local newspaper is critical to a functioning democracy. Voters need to be able to distinguish truth from lies.

We need to know what our elected officials at all levels of government are doing. Virginians will need to keep up with a new Republican governor and General Assembly.

And it’s helpful to know what’s on sale, which new eatery has opened, the latest sports scores, and who died. For a break from bad news: the comics.

For all their challenges, local newspapers perform valiantly.

“Local newspapers significantly outperform local TV, radio and online-only outlets in news production, both in overall story output and in terms of stories that are original, local or address a critical information need,” a 2019 Duke University study of 100 communities ranging in size from 20,000 to 300,000 residents found.

A national newspaper will provide a broader perspective on the nation and the world. Both local and national papers will make you smarter.

I recommend the print paper because we all spend too much time in front of screens. If your family and friends prefer getting their news digitally, go for it.

 Newspapers are devoting more time and energy to their digital products, and they provide a lively, interactive experience.

Reading a daily newspaper – or two – will reward you with knowing what’s really happening around the corner, in Washington and the world.

© Marsha Mercer 2021. All rights reserved.


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