No doubt, local papers are in trouble and some say big national papers will be the last standing. But there may just be something about the hometown rag that people are just not yet willing to let go of.

The Birmingham (Michigan) Eccentric is living up to its name and bucking the trend of local papers being cut off by their corporate parents.

With a circulation of around 6,000 in a city with a population that hovers around 19,000, the Eccentric was on Gannett’s schedule to follow the fate of similar papers in nearby towns and be shut down after 131 years at press.

In May, a few devoted readers and staff called upon the community to take action:

Town Hall Meeting to Save the Eccentric

Posted Date: 5/21/2009
Since it was announced that the Birmingham Eccentric would be closing its doors after over 130 years of reporting in the area, a group of concerned citizens and local officials from Birmingham, Bingham Farms, Bloomfield Township, Bloomfield Hills and Beverly Hills have been working with staff from Gannett Newspapers to keep the Birmingham Eccentric alive in our communities.
 
As a result of these efforts, the Birmingham Eccentric will remain in publication temporarily, and a more permanent reprieve is within reach. If an additional 3,000 new subscriptions can be obtained by July 1, 2009, and a total of 5,000 new subscriptions by October 31, 2009, the Birmingham Eccentric will continue to be published in our communities.

Join citizens and officials from the communities of Birmingham, Bingham Farms, Bloomfield Township, Bloomfield Hills and Beverly Hills for a Town Hall Meeting to Save the Eccentric on Wednesday, June 3, 2009 from 7:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. at The Community House, located at 380 S. Bates Street in Birmingham. All are welcome to attend and show support for the Eccentric and share ideas for how this valuable community asset can be saved. You may also visit www.savetheeccentric.com to subscribe online.

Please pass this information along to anyone whom you believe would have an interest in saving an important local resource.


So began an impressive campaign, spearheaded by local resident David Bloom and the Eccentric’s editor, Greg Kowalski, that has included—among other things—negotiations at Gannett headquarters in Washington, D.C., a Web site (www.savetheccentric.com) where visitors can subscribe directly, and a persuasive argument for doing so:

The Birmingham Eccentric provides an important source of information to community residents about issues that directly affect our day to day lives and the communities where we live. The Eccentric provides vital information on local education, sports, business, government and everyday citizens. This news is truly unique to our area and is irreplaceable. What other source has been trusted and valued for as long as the Eccentric?

The Eccentric is also a key element in binding us together as a community and it is important that we work together to preserve our community during these trying times.

The time for action is now!

Please join in supporting the paper by subscribing today, the cost is just $1 an issue.

The Detroit News reported on Wednesday that the efforts had yielded 800 new subscriptions to date. While that does not meet the reported requirement of 3,000 new subscriptions by July 1, the paper prints on and its loyal readers continue their efforts to recruit their neighbors and save the Eccentric.

While other efforts to save local papers that have relied largely on petitions and publicity, as in the case of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which went online-only earlier this year, have failed to forestall the decline of print dailies, there is still hope that the new tactics being tested in Birmingham will succeed. Either way, there will be lessons learned in the search for sustainability in local news. Here’s hoping for good news…

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Diana Dellamere is a former CJR staff writer.