Over the years I have touted the benefits of small town life in my columns, books, speaking engagements, and conversations with anybody who will listen. I still think small towns are the heart of America even as they are being swallowed up by urban expansion or just abandoned because businesses have left and the people had to leave to find jobs elsewhere.
One of the benefits that seems more important than ever right now is the existence of community newspapers. For most of my life we received the news from “the press” which was,essentially, newspapers, radio and network television and news magazines. Now we get our news from “the media” which is a wide range of sources including social media, internet, cable networks, and a bunch of other stuff I don’t even recognize, use or understand. To top it all off, we are now told that what we receive is “fake news”. In all honesty, there is no such thing as fake news. It is either news or fiction. You can’t make up news. You can editorialize about the news, comment on the news, talk about how the news is presented, but you can’t change the news. Reporting the news is stating only the facts. There is no such thing as a “fake fact” either.
And that’s why I think community newspapers are the salvation of journalism and a reflection of why small towns are the core of America. News organizations should be held accountable for what they say in whatever medium they say it. The most accountable news agency is the local newspaper. They have the most direct connection to their readers. If a reader has a question about an article than ran in that week’s edition, they can ask the editor or reporter about it at church, the cafe, the gas station, civic club meeting or anywhere else they will see them personally. If they really want to confront the authenticity or veracity of a story, they can just go down to the newspaper office and talk to whoever wrote the story. And the people writing the news stories know all that, so they are very careful to print only the truth.
Another reason I like community newspapers is they don’t print just the bad stuff. In my local paper, today’s front page headlines included “Dance Competition sizzles, raises $30,000 for depot”, “Billy Carter, Dewey Ward, Judge Sasser honored for volunteerism”. This news was on the same page with “City to focus on trouble spots” (relating to traffic) and “Railroad bed is blamed for some flooding”. The local paper is a reflection of where we live and the people who live there, the good and the bad. We know the people in the news stories.
Past the headlines are stories about a new doctor, local politicians’ reports of their activities, and news of upcoming festivals that celebrate what is good in our area.
I still like to read about the local sports teams and the individual achievements of young athletes, school menus, the obituaries, the advertisements, and the legal notices. And, yes, the editorial page. The local newspaper paper paints a picture of our community, warts and all.
We can depend on the community newspaper. We have to rely on all those other “media” for news beyond our local area. We have to rely on those other folks for how we see the world but we know, for sure, how things are around here.