As big city dailies struggled to survive many smaller daily newspapers and weeklies continued to enjoy financial health. The smaller papers that prospered usually built their success around the the “solemn truth” of George Booth that a large, metropolitan paper could not cover a local community better than a small, community-based newspaper. Booth came by this observation through personal experience. In 1894 an effort had been made to launch a daily newspaper in Ann Arbor that was largely composed of type already set for the Detroit Daily Journal, seasoned with a bit of new local material. The Times of Ann Arbor, fearing that this combination might cause it to lose business, entered into a similar agreement with the Detroit News. Both ventures, however, failed rather quickly.
Booth’s observation gave birth to several successful strategies for a profitable newspaper. One, of course, was Booth’s own strategy of creating versions of the Detroit News in smaller communities. This strategy, however, faced the same limitations and problems that beset all papers based on mass marketing in the last half of the twentieth century. An alternative strategy was a laser focus on local news. Whether published on a daily or weekly basis, this strategy was really a continuation of the old story of the small town newspaper. Isolated geographically from major metropolitan centers and with too small a population base to make financially successful another form of media, small town newspapers continued to serve as the principal vehicle through which the community obtained its local news and local advertisers made the community aware of their products. As the editor of the Frankenmouth News expressed the idea, speaking specifically about the paper’s coverage of World War II:
As it directly affects Frankenmuth shall we record the war. Other, abler journalists shall chronicle the swift march of the juggernauts of slaughter, other, keener pens shall inscribe the history our nation must write. Ours is the task, the ONLY one we can do; the one only WE can do of recording the history of one small village. That we shall do. And when this struggle is over, that history that we’ve written will not be one to be lightly dismissed as trivial. For war will be fought, treaty will be signed and war fought again. Tojo, Konoye, Hirohito will rise and die and other aggressors will usurp their place in history . . . but babies will be born, homes will be built, marriages will be made. Infants will be baptized; children will go to school; youth will grow into man’s estate … these things will go on and on . . . this is the history we propose to write during the black months that lie ahead.
The Alpena News, celebrating their 100th anniversary in 1999, expressed the same idea more succinctly, “A community newspaper should be a mirror of that community and should chronicle the events that have shaped history.”