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1.5 million Mississippians read newspapers weekly
by Amanda Sexton Ferguson, Editor and Publisher
Oct 10, 2013 | 67 views | 0 0 comments | 176 176 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This is the 73rd annual National Newspaper Week, which observes the importance of newspapers in the community.

I come from a family of newspaper readers. My parents and grandparents both subscribed to the large metro daily paper published in Memphis, The Commercial Appeal, as well as the DeSoto Times, a weekly community newspaper focused entirely on DeSoto County where we lived, and The Southaven Press, Southaven's weekly newspaper of which I would later become editor.

Every evening after dinner, my father would stretch out across the sofa and read the newspaper. Most every night, he would fall asleep covered in newspaper pages - an image from childhood I most associate with my father. He worked long, hard hours, and he came home at night and relaxed with the newspaper. Even in retirement, my father unwinds each day with the newspaper.

On Saturday and Sunday, as we enjoyed a leisurely family breakfast, sections of the newspaper were passed around. My sisters and I loved the comics, the Arts and Entertainment section, and all the shopping circulars. My mother would make her weekly shopping list from sale items in the newspaper, and Daddy would always, and still does, browse the classified ads for upcoming antique auctions.

At my extended family functions, conversations generally began with a discussion about local political news and, of course, family friends whose obituaries were recently published.

Then there was the "Eudora Newsline," a column which ran each week in the DeSoto Times. My grandparents were often mentioned in Margarite Earnhart's weekly column - mostly about my grandfather's beloved horses, the Eudora Presbyterian Church which my great-great-grandparents helped found, and of course, their 10 grandchildren.

My journalism career actually began with my father nosing through his weekly newspaper. The Southaven Press was advertising for a sports editor, and my father responded to the ad. And so, here I am.

The Sexton family is not alone in its love of newspapers. According to a survey conducted by the Mississippi Press Association, seven out of ten Mississippi families read a newspaper every week - that is 1.5 million people in Mississippi alone that read a newspaper.

The survey also showed that newspaper readership is stronger among Mississippians aged 18 to 34 than in any other state. In fact 72 percent of young adults read a newspaper or a newspaper website every week.

Fifty-seven percent of Mississippians said printed newspapers are the one local advertising source they rely on most, and 87 percent said keeping the public informed through legal advertising in newspapers is an important requirement for government agencies.

In the last two years billionaire investor Warren Buffet has invested $344 million to acquire 28 local newspapers.

In an interview, Buffet explained his enthusiasm for newspapers. "Newspapers continue to reign supreme in the delivery of local news. If you want to know what's going on in your town - whether the news is about the mayor or taxes or high school football - there is no substitute for a local newspaper that is doing its job. A reader's eyes may glaze over after they take in a couple of paragraphs about Canadian tariffs or political developments in Pakistan; a story about the reader himself or his neighbors will be read to the end. Wherever there is a pervasive sense of community, a paper that serves the special informational needs of that community will remain indispensable to a significant portion of its residents."

Over the years, my staff and I have shared this community's many milestones, its joy, its pride, and even its grief. We have felt like a part of your family. Thank you for allowing us to be part of your lives.

Contact Amanda Sexton Ferguson at publisher@winonatimes.com.
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