Clicking noise echoes through the office as reporters craft a unique explanation of events. It has been said journalists record the first draft of history through not only words and headlines, but also photographs and videos. But what if the newspaper disappeared?
Though we may not always like what we read, it’s important for the public to actively engage in their communities by staying informed about issues journalists cover on county and city activities. Those decisions affect our communities, our neighbors, students, teachers, small business owners and us.
By having a free press, we are able to get an inside look to how our communities operate and keep officials in check for their actions. The problem arises when the people no longer see their local newspaper as a reliable source on local issues.
According to a Pew Research Center study on “The Role of Newspapers in How People Learn About Their Community,” 69% believe the death of their local paper would have no impact on their abilities to get local information. More concerning, if we look to the younger audience, adults ages 18-29, they were especially unconcerned as 75% say the loss of the newspaper would not affect their abilities to get local news. While the survey concluded many Americans believe their local newspaper is a key source of local news, many adults turn to the paper for information on crime, taxes, local government, schools community events, zoning information, housing and jobs.
Relying on the newspaper for several local topics is why newspapers are so important. As reporters track down stories of public interest, those stories are only benefiting the community if the public reads them. That’s the beauty of a free press. We are working for our friends, families and local taxpayers to bring the truth to light.
But what if local newspapers like the Gering Courier or the Star-Herald no longer existed? No one to sit in on city council meetings, county commissioner meetings nor school board meetings. Some people have told me they don’t attend school board meetings because they know I’ll be there. But what if I wasn’t?
Our democracy is for the people and ran by the people. We have the power to petition our government and determine how money is spent and the direction our governments take on policies. Without a news reporter, would the public start attending more meetings or just accept what officials are doing as for our best interests?
Being a reporter requires me to ask the tough questions and occasionally report on issues that are tough to fathom in order to provide a clear picture of what is happening. While the news may be upsetting for the public, I’ve learned sometimes emotions are the great drivers of people to make the world better. The Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Suffrage Movement were both fueled by people’s beliefs in a better way of government and civility. Americans fought for equality to vote and to be allowed in the same public places.
So, being passionate about a decision of the city council or the school board should be shared with our elected officials, so they know what the people want. It also ensures the community has a voice and the newspaper can document the people’s perceptions on an issue.
Freedom of the Press is an invaluable right we have in America that reporters, editors and publishers continually maintain to ensure government transparency. Without the press, who would be our historian?