Keeping it ‘real’

National Newspaper Week ended Sunday. For the first time in my 40-year journalism career, I feel like I am getting too old to handle the drama that you have to deal with from week to week. Mainly, because the drama has increased dramatically, people are too easily offended and people just don’t understand the role of a community newspaper, yet they want to tell you how to do your job. The longer I am a journalist, I am realizing why there are so few of us who do not drink, smoke or both. Many drink lots and lots of coffee and that was once me, but I’ve had to cut back on the coffee. Still drink it but not as much.
The theme for National Newspaper Week was “Real Newspapers, Real News”. No one understands that better than those of us journalists who work at a community newspaper. We’ve been real for years and have kept it real when the mainstream media took a wrong turn somewhere. We’ve continued to cover real meetings in an effort to keep the real public informed. We’ve continued to have real deadlines, so we could get printed and out on time. We’ve continued to work hard on real stories, whether they are real good or real bad. We have a real staff who not only cares about the community but cares about the job we do in that community in trying to keep the public informed.
A newspaper’s role in today’s society is more challenging than ever. In the era of “fake” news, community newspapers do not have the time nor resources or the desire to fabricate a story. There are plenty of real stories in our communities. But sometimes the public gets the lines confused and finds it hard to know what is real and fake. I can tell you if you read it in the local paper, you can bank that it is real.
We strive to be accurate but as humans we do make mistakes and we own up to them when we do. Fake news sources do not; in fact, they love the controversy. We double check facts and our writing but on deadline at times, we can miss something. We never intentionally try to make a mistake or report something that is not true.
The staff here is real. We only have one full time employee. The rest are part-time or volunteers who see the importance of a community newspaper and step up to the plate to help us. We love our volunteers and their service is priceless to us.
When we quote someone, the people we quoted are real and usually people in our community. We advocate for government transparency because the public should demand it. We help hold those in our local governments accountable. We defend the First Amendment and uphold the Constitution.
We are committed to our communities and the areas we serve. By providing real news reporting we are giving a voice to the voiceless and empowering the powerless. Governments, whether local or national, belong to the people and we strive to remember that in our reporting on where your tax dollars are being spent.
When I first got into the world of newspaper, even then they were saying it was a dying industry. That has been 40 years ago and while we are having to make changes to stay up with the times, newspapers are still a vital and real component of a community.
According to recent surveys, newspapers are still the top choice for people seeking real and reliable news and information. More than half of all Americans still subscribe to newspapers and this exceeds TV news watchers.
Yes, we have survived radio and TV but the real threat these days is a 24/7 internet-delivered media which disrupts the reality for which newspapers were first introduced. Because of this more and more people cannot differentiate between real and fake news. It may be called social media, but the reality is that it is really anti-social. Tweets or posts do not protect the public’s right to know or help keep the government in check.
The entitlement generations thinks news should be free and delivered to their phones without a thought. They don’t care that it took someone time and effort to attend a meeting, do research and double check facts and then write a story before it could be published. They don’t care that many hometown newspapers have gone out of business and that journalists have lost jobs right and left.
None of us really know what the future holds or what a newspaper, if it will even be called that, will look like in years to come. But those of us who made it our life’s work and were a part of a newspaper’s productions in one way or other, know exactly how real it has been. The long termers would probably bleed ink when cut.
I’ve often said your friends and enemies change on a weekly basis depending on what’s in the newspaper that week. That is even more real now as if leaders don’t like that you reported a truth that was unflattering, they threaten to take away some of the revenue you get.
Reality for newspapers in the next decade to stay alive is going to require real leaders who understand how important members of the fourth estate really are, and real revenues to keep them being published. Have you read your local paper lately? Keep it real and be a part of their survival. ©2017
VICTORIA SIMMONS is an author, columnist, motivational speaker, minister and publisher of The Georgia Post/Byron Buzz. Contact her at:


About vsimmons54

Veteran journalist of 40 years. Editor, Motivational Speaker, Ordained Minister, CEO of A Light in the Darkness Ministries, Copy Editor, Copywriting, Event Planner, Lensclusive Photography, Babbling Brook Consulting and Design, event planner and author. I love to write and speak and I love Jesus. I also do copy writing and editing. Recently co-authored Vanished Towns Revisited.
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