Media Matters

The way we digest news in Western North Carolina has changed dramatically since Asheville’s first newspaper, the Highland Messenger, began publishing around 1840. Today, most of us no longer walk to the door, pick up the paper and sit down to eat with our favorite sections sprawled across the breakfast table. And even those who still do may also be checking Twitter, following hashtags and using apps.

These changes, of course, aren’t limited to the North Carolina mountains. In an October study by the Pew Research Center, only 38 percent of respondents said they regularly read a daily newspaper — down from 54 percent in 2004. Meanwhile, the study noted, digital readership is up: 55 percent of regular New York Times readers now enjoy their paper on a computer or mobile device.

But is this merely a shift in delivery systems, or are there more fundamental changes afoot? What new business models will local publishers, editors and producers experiment with? How does this rapidly evolving media landscape affect our community as a whole, and individual residents’ ability to access the information they need?

Does the dismantling of traditional barriers require consumers to play a more active role in assessing the news they receive? And how do educators teach journalism or even basic media literacy when there’s no textbook for the warp-speed shifts continually sweeping the industry?

Our new “Media Matters” series will explore these questions and more because, at Mountain Xpress, we firmly believe that local matters — and, consequently, local media matters.

Send your media-related news and tips to cbyrd@mountainx.com.

— Caitlin Byrd

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