Town officials, local celebrities like Kaline, and high school and middle school students will all be contributors to the new Eccentric; the goal being to further integrate the newspaper into all levels of the community, and to create a sustainable readership as the population ages. Linda Solomon is particularly focused on this goal. She has recruited several local students to contribute to her weekly column. Another student has agreed to use a designated internship time in school to recruit subscriptions.

Local, Local, Local

Keeping the Eccentric’s focus local is a sentiment echoed by the paper’s editors, advertisers, and readers.

Catering to local merchants in content, form, and community involvement is critical for financial success. “We used to sell [advertising] based on a regional model,” says Rosiek. “Now we sell on a strictly local model. It is something we got away from for a long time and now we are going back to our roots.”

Businesses in Birmingham believe that the local newspaper can be a strong factor in influencing potential customers to buy local. The Eccentric has also added a business section to highlight local merchants, and even incorporated editorial opportunities, including regular features and columns for officials who represent the Principal Shopping District and the Chamber of Commerce.

Local Media Can, and Must, Help Save Itself

The real lede of the Birmingham Eccentric’s story is that community commitment and activism on the part of citizens and the news media can change the fate of local newspapers, at least in some cases. David Bloom made it clear that “there was no shortage of discontent to fuel the effort. It just required one person to be the spark.” After that, it’s up to the community and the newspaper to grow that spark into a sustainable movement.

Diana Dellamere is a former CJR staff writer.