This is National Newspaper Week, which we certainly celebrate at the office. This year’s theme is know your first five freedoms. Of course the first is freedom of the press which means I can express my opinion here without fear of government interference. That is starting not to be the case in some instances across the country.
I am thankful that for now, it is the case in my corner of the world. You don’t really appreciate a freedom until you are threatened with having it taken away.
People don’t realize how important it is that we have a free press; even on the community level it is of utmost importance. At our newspaper, we still stand by the public’s right to know. It’s why we sometimes break our necks trying to attend government meetings so we can keep the public informed of how their taxpayer monies are being spent.
At this time, I have the smallest staff I’ve ever had at a newspaper in my career and though we do make mistakes, I’m proud to say, we get the job done every week.
Last week was one of those, you pray you don’t have many of in this business. My computer died. I had not transferred several things over yet for that week to the server. I usually do that prior to sending pages to the press.
Therefore, there were several things on my computer such as ads and stories, which we had to recreate. We spent an additional four hours or more getting the newspaper done last week. It is only Kristi and I right now and I appreciate her hanging in there with me. We both were getting to the point of frustration but we survived and the newspaper got published. It was a little later getting out to the community on Wednesday afternoon, but not too much.
Because there are only two of us, we cannot possibly be everywhere all the time, though we try where possible. We rely heavily on the public to help us not only cover things but help keep us informed of things in the communities were serve. Never mind that we have to compete with social media these days, which not only perpetuates fake news, but also censors content.
We may blast the government when they try to censor us, but we rarely raise an eyebrow when social media does. It’s just what it is and we keep using them anyway. Freedom of the press and speech is denied to those in China, North Korea and others who fear oppression more than anything else. People in those countries cannot hold their government accountable. To do so could mean death. Transparency in government in those countries does not exist.
For now, thanks to journalists who stay the course, we can pursue transparency for the public’s right to know.
Because of today’s world, community newspapers and its reporters are even more important than ever before in the history of our nation. Newspapers are important for democracy.
Thomas Jefferson knew its importance as he wrote in a letter,”a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Newspapers are known as the Fourth Estate of government. They provide checks and balances and we do not consider ourselves enemies of the government. Not at all. We see ourselves as champions for the public – the everyday men and women of our communities.
A newspaper can be the most powerful advocate the public can ever have. We try and hold the government accountable to the people, even when government doesn’t want to be accountable. Government belongs to we the people.
Society has changed and not necessarily for the better, but the role of newspapers has not fundamentally changed, nor should it. We are trying to roll with the punches and move forward into the future, which is not always an easy task because the general public for the most part, has forgotten how important newspapers can be in their community.
While we are headed into the digital age, newspapers’ role is the same: producing stories for our communities that matter to them. Though our price for the weekly paper may have increased, it has not kept up with the times nor the increasing costs associated with newspaper production. And if you think social media is really free, you haven’t really thought it over thoroughly. You pay for it by providing your personal information every time you log in and every time you make a purchase.
That’s why you start seeing ads for various things in your newsfeed. They are trying to cater to what they think you want. Just as we try to work on our nutrition diets, we should be more aware of our information diet. We should also be fostering more support for local, community newspapers who are striving to keep us in the know. If you want to support and are in favor of democracy, subscribe or place an advertisement with us. We will appreciate it and our real, live people who support our communities, not like the social media CEOs who never step foot in your state, much less your community.
We stay late when necessary to get the job done in our community and we care about our readers, advertisers and communities. We try to support our advertisers as well. We’re your watchdog for your tax money and that helps foster democracy. Isn’t that something worth supporting?
VICTORIA SIMMONS Is a columnist, author, motivational speaker, minister and publisher of The Georgia Post/Byron Buzz. Contact her at: email@example.com