ONE OF THE most popular pastimes in Savannah is complaining about the local media.
Whether it’s blaming us for the outcome of local elections or gleefully sharing some minor typo on social media, we’re all a target for ridicule or abuse at some point or another.
Now, I’m a strong believer in the “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” philosophy when it comes to journalism — and pretty much everything else — so I mostly take it in stride.
If you can’t take it, you shouldn’t dish it out. That’s a good rule for everybody, but especially good if you think you want to be in this profession for longer than five minutes.
We rarely if ever have the incredible luxury of being anonymous. For better or worse our name, and often our picture, is usually next to everything we write or say and every opinion we have. That’s certainly true of everyone at Connect.
Obviously all of us in the media could use some improvement — and no doubt in some cases a lot of improvement.
I’m definitely my own toughest critic, and there are plenty of things I’d like to improve about what we do here at Connect Savannah.
But since we’re in the truth-telling business, I think it’s time that someone finally stand up and tell the truth that Savannah really is remarkably well-served by all of its local media, especially considering the extraordinarily small size of the market.
To be clear, I include all our competitors and colleagues in this statement.
Here’s the thing: Savannah is only about the 93rd largest media market in the U.S.
There are dozens of larger markets that many people here might look down their noses at.
Waco, Texas is right above us at number 89. Huntsville, Alabama is number 79. Wichita, Kansas, is at 76.
Columbia, S.C. is number 74. Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C., comes in at number 38.
The media industry is at a crisis point all over the country. Many cities much larger than Savannah don’t even have a daily newspaper at all anymore, much less the wide range of print and broadcast media that we enjoy here.
As for the local daily paper, it comes in for more than its share of bashing, which on occasion I’ve been known to join in on. But there are plenty of people doing really good work at the Morning News, and in any case it’s certainly better than having no daily paper at all.
(I fully realize that all these kind words about the competition and four bucks will get me a small coffee at the nearest Starbucks. But I thought it had to be said.)
In addition to Connect and our fairly unique and independent market niche, there are plenty of other weekly/monthly/bimonthly publications to enjoy, including Do Savannah, Savannah Magazine, South Magazine, the Savannah Business Journal, and The Spirit in Pooler.
There are two African-American owned papers, the Savannah Tribune and the Savannah Herald.
There is a Spanish-language publication, La Voz Latina (owned by Morning News parent Gatehouse).
There are three university publications in Savannah staffed and run by college students: The Armstrong/Ga. Southern Inkwell, SCAD’s District, and Savannah State University’s Tiger’s Roar.
Tiger’s Roar represents one of only two accredited journalism programs in the entire state (the other is at my own alma mater, the University of Georgia).
Regional publications include the Coastal Courier, Effingham Herald, Bryan County News, Statesboro Herald, and Connect Statesboro, all owned by Connect parent company Morris Multimedia.
As for Connect, we remain one of the healthiest alt-weekly papers in the country (alt-weekly = alternative to the mainstream media), with a robust and actually quite large print edition each week.
Contrast this with Atlanta’s Creative Loafing, one of the country’s first alt-weeklies and a paper I was once affiliated with. They recently downsized to just a monthly print edition, each about the same size as one of Connect’s weekly editions, in a vastly bigger media market that’s tenth-largest in the country.
The seminal Village Voice alt-weekly in New York, number one media market in the country, has gone online-only and has no print presence at all. In the country’s second-largest media market, LA Weekly is currently undergoing a great amount of turmoil, and no one can quite gauge its future.
It’s not just about print media, obviously. As for broadcast media in Savannah, there are three network TV affiliates with hard-working news teams: WTOC, WSAV, and WJCL, in addition to Georgia Public Broadcasting’s TV arm and its news and issues programming.
In the radio world, there is a wide range of solid options for news, including Georgia Public Broadcasting at FM 91, WTKS talk radio, and the political/news programming at WRUU community radio, an all-volunteer effort which does great work.
All in a metro area of only about 380,000 people, across Chatham, Effingham, and Bryan Counties.
This is also quite a fast-growing area, with plenty of new arrivals. One of the most frustrating things is how quickly newcomers begin echoing the fashionable complaints about there not being any local media worth speaking of — actually quite an absurd statement.
Ironically enough, they usually make these statements on Facebook. Perhaps they can’t find the local media because they spend so much time there instead.
I assume if you’re reading this, you’re at least a tangential follower of what we do at Connect.
But in addition to us, there really is pretty much something for everyone here. It’s a shame that so many people take it so much for granted, so much of the time.