Welcome to Norwalk Ohio News
After working at the Norwalk Reflector newspaper for 25 years, Matt Roche suddenly found himself out of a job in August 2019.
"Instead of a gold watch, I got a pink slip," Roche joked.
An ownership change led to his dismissal.
"The Reflector had been in the Rau/White family for multiple generations. When the family finally decided to sell, an effort was made to find a buyer who would keep the newspaper going. They really had the best interest of Norwalk in mind," Roche said.
However, the new owners made numerous position cuts at the Reflector and its sister paper, the Sandusky Register, as part of the transition, and Roche's news editor role was one of them.
For about two decades, Roche had helped run the news operations. In addition to serving as online editor, he handled the bulk of the pagination, assigned, wrote and edited stories and performed a variety of behind-the-scenes duties.
"I was a huge supporter of newspapers, obviously," said Roche, who graduated from Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and won numerous awards during his time with the Reflector. "But the sad fact is that the industry is dying."
The demise is partially self-inflicted. When Internet usage increased, newspapers began putting their stories online at no charge, hoping online advertising dollars would pay the bills. That didn't happen. "What business can give away all of its product and hope to succeed? Like the old adage says, 'Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free,'" Roche said.
To offset the loss of print advertisers and subscribers, newspapers cut staff, raise prices and scale back offerings. Readers respond by cancelling their subscription. More cuts follow.
With their websites, newspapers typically chase pageviews to increase advertising revenue, so they post sensational stories and use click-bait headlines. Pop-ups and flashing ads further hamper the user experience. Their e-editions are not-so-mobile-friendly digital replicas of the newsprint product, sometimes costing about as much.
"There is still a demand for solid community journalism, but the newspaper industry can no longer provide it — not while clinging to the expensive and outdated medium of newsprint and ink," Roche said.
So people turn to social media and word of mouth to share information. The audiences, though, are fragmented and the credibility of stories can be called into question if journalists are not fact-checking, providing context and ensuring both sides of an issue have their say.
"When a community loses a newspaper, it's a huge loss. People need a centralized place to find information that affects their day-to-day life," Roche said. "A few years ago, the Bellevue Gazette closed, leaving our neighboring city without a paper. Two months later, a teenage girl was fatally hit by a semi while crossing a Bellevue street. A few days afterward, I was talking with a resident who lived in that neighborhood, and he had no idea that tragedy had occurred. Instead of mourning as a community, people were going about their lives, uninformed about things that should matter to them."
While TV and radio stations might cover big stories in a city such as Norwalk, a local media outlet is needed to report on business openings and closings, school administration changes, utility rate hikes, boil advisories, obituaries, community festivals and so forth.
To fill this need locally, Roche and his family have created Norwalk Ohio News — an online subscription news site focused exclusively on Norwalk.
Norwalk Ohio News provides news about Norwalk government, schools, businesses, organizations and events, as well as obituaries, weather, police blotter and feature stories. Norwalk advertisers’ messages are displayed in a dignified manner, with no annoying pop-ups.
For those who purchase a one-year subscription, the cost is only $3 per month.
"There is a cost to provide the type of journalism that a community such as Norwalk desperately needs," Roche said. "But that cost doesn't have to be significant — not nearly as much as newspapers are charging."
Among the contributing writers is Madeline Roche, the oldest of Matt and Jodie's four daughters. After serving as editor-and-chief of Norwalk High School's newspaper, Truckers Imprint, she became a regular correspondent and columnist for the Reflector.
"While growing up in Norwalk, I have gotten to know many in the community. It's a great place to live and work," Madeline Roche said. "I can see the need for accurate, non-biased journalism. I strongly feel journalism is more than a career; it is a responsibility to keep the public educated and informed. I love Norwalk and look forward to keeping our community connected."
Roche said he hopes the community will support and be proud of Norwalk Ohio News. City residents are encouraged to share suggestions and tips, ensuring stories are written about things that matter to them.
"The very affordable subscription cost of $3 per month allows community journalism to continue in Norwalk," Roche said.
Contact us via email at NorwalkOhioNews@gmail.com or by phone at 419-677-0040 for more information about Norwalk Ohio News.