I’ve been hearing a lot of negative comments lately about the role of newspapers in today’s American society.
The leader of the free world, President Donald Trump, points to journalists and declares we are the enemy of the people. Hogwash.
Politicians – especially autocrats – fear a free press. God knows what we might dig up. Like the truth. This kind of rhetoric is dangerous to a democratic society.
I keep a copy of the Journalist’s Creed on my desk. Hollie Barnidge, a former Coastal Courier editor, gave it to me years ago.
It says, in part, that the kind of journalism that succeeds best – and best deserves success, “…is stoutly independent, unmoved by pride of opinion or greed of power, constructive, tolerant but never careless, self-controlled, patient, always respectful of its readers but always unafraid, is quickly indignant at injustice; is unswayed by the appeal of privilege or the clamor of the mob; seeks to give every man a chance, and, as far as law and honest wage and recognition of human brotherhood can make it so, an equal chance; is profoundly patriotic while sincerely promoting international good will and cementing world-comradeship; is a journalism of humanity, of and for today’s world.”
I recently heard one millennial tell another millennial (not the millennials that work for us, they’re terrific young people!), “Newspapers are dead.”
If that’s the case, why do news articles get so many hits when shared on social media? Why do broadcast journalists sitting pretty on TV making the big bucks report headlines from investigative pieces that run in the New York Times? Sometimes these same broadcast celebrities share stories that run in medium and small newspapers. They do this after the print journalists have done all the complex footwork gathering the facts.
Even smaller newspapers, like ours, have been criticized for simply doing our jobs. Criticism that usually comes from politicians.
We are the community’s watchdog. That’s our responsibility.
News stories often reflect crises, violence, racism or other unpleasantness. That’s life. And, people should be informed about what goes on in their communities, be it crime, politics, education, or whatever.
Our job is to be fair, balanced and accurate. Not necessarily soft. Unless, of course, it’s a human interest piece. Then, we want to show compassion and be inspired.
What would happen if your hometown newspaper went away? Would you rely on rumor and innuendo that circulates on social media as a substitute for real news? Would you put credence in anything put out by government spokespeople that slant stories to solely support an elected official’s agenda? Would you accept as fact a public relations piece paid for by a large corporation, no questions asked?
Week after week, the stories run in hometown newspapers become records of that town’s history.
We report on local elections, local governments, our children’s schools, local crimes and local court cases. We run stories on prom kings and queens, high school graduations and high school sports. We tell our readers about new restaurants, stores and other businesses. We highlight local heroes, and support our police and firefighters – as well as our military – when they provide dedicated service and sacrifice.
Looking for a weekend event to entertain the family? Look at our calendar. Looking for a new church family or wanting to find comfort in a pastor’s heartfelt message? Look on the faith page.
If it is important to you, dear reader, it’s likely in your hometown newspaper, both the traditional print paper and on the website.
Please don’t ask us to shy away from reporting the truth. First, and foremost, we journalists are tasked with being trustees for the public.
Like my Journalist’s Creed states, “I believe that a journalist should only write what he (or she) holds in his (or her) heart to be true.”
Etheridge is the editor of the Coastal Courier. She and her husband have two grown children, a grandchild on the way, a teddy bear of a rescue dog, and a grumpy cat that guards the house.