An Amish newspaper, The Budget, proposed moving its content onto the Internet but subscribers responded angrily to the suggestion. According to an AP story last week, local Ohio news where the paper is published (Sugarcreek, in Eastern Ohio) is already made available digitally, but the rest of the newspaper, a national edition, will continue to be sold only in paper format. The publisher of the paper is paying attention to the angry letters from subscribers.
The correspondents in American Amish settlements threatened to stop reporting if the paper went ahead with its plan to go online. Known as scribes, the correspondents feared that their dispatches to the paper, if they were also made available on the Internet, would simply serve to entertain the “English”—the non-Amish.
The publisher of The Budget, Keith Rathbun, a non-Amish man who has a background of running an alternative newspaper in Cleveland, said that he’d “be a fool to not pay attention” to the complaints of his readers. The owners of the paper also own other Ohio businesses that provide goods for the Amish.
The Budget, with 20,000 subscribers in the U.S. and Canada, has been one of the major forms of communication among Amish people across the continent since it was founded in 1890. Their readers are continuing to maintain their subscriptions—the Amish do not have electricity, much less access to the Internet—and businesses continue to place their ads. The paper plans to expand the paid editorial staff, a remarkable difference from the larger media corporations that are struggling to survive in the digital age.
Rathbun says that his major problem is seeing that the papers get to subscribers on time via regular mail deliveries. He admits that people refer to his paper as the Amish Internet, and he suggests that it does serve a similar function for his subscribers.
It publishes a wide range of local news—the doings in church districts that other Amish are likely to be interested in.
Don Kraybill, an expert on Amish social affairs, indicates that The Budget and its smaller competitors provide a social glue for the Amish community. “They may not be able to worship together or collaborate together, but they can learn about each other through these newspapers,” he says.