Admit it. Don’t you, even now, read the newspaper with just a tinge of preemptive nostalgia?
Newspapers today are hardly more than an out-dated and cumbersome albeit quaint means of transportation.
If it is our emperor in our square, don’t we want a lad there? A lad with open eyes and the intention of saying what he saw?
It has been said we are only as sick as our secrets. This goes for organizations and institutions and governments as well as in personal lives. Sure, there is such a thing as a right to privacy but once your business becomes my business, I have a right to know about it. I want to know about it from someone with enough distance to actually see what there is to see, but who also has an interest as part of my same community.
Local journalism such as in a local newspaper is our kid in the crowd.
There is also a matter of accountability that local press is uniquely capable of addressing.
The far corner of the large parking lot was merely inconvenient when I parked there as an undergrad late for class years ago. By the time I left the school many hours later, my car was parked in the distance where street lights only cast shadows and the pavement had been abandoned to gravel. I wasn’t frightened until the boys showed up.
They were a bit too old to be on bicycles, I thought at first, but these were bikes designed to be muscled to jump high and go fast. There were easily a half-dozen boys, and I¿don’t think they were looking for trouble when they approached me, but soon a mob/pack mentality seemed to take over. I was buzzed, closer and closer, while they heckled and called to each other about my impending plight all alone out there in the dark.
Now I was frightened.
In a blinding flash of insight, I locked eyes with one of the boys and said, “Hey!¿Hi!¿I’m sorry, I forgot your name but how are you? I¿know you, remember? I know your mom, I mean. How is she anyway?
”It was a bluff.
They dead stopped circling me at once. After a few clumsy moments in which the boy assured me his mom was fine, thanks, they simply evaporated into the dark night.
Accountability is a powerful tool and holds us to a standard of behavior we might otherwise lose sight of if left to our own.
Local newspapers act as a mom just a phone call away to keep shenanigans in check before a game gets out of hand and somebody gets hurt. It’s an important role, and one not to be taken lightly.
It can only, I believe, be fulfilled by an organization without conflicts of interest established for no other purpose than to know what is going on and then tell about it. Local news also keeps a running record of this knowledge and so can act as a b.s. detector in a community by helping — by insisting — that any in positions of authority and trust keep his or her stories straight.
Knowing full well I’m going to call and keep calling until it all make sense, has an impact. It had better, or I¿am not doing my job.
Reporting is more than just publishing press releases. Local press is uniquely qualified to see through agendas and to not act only as press agents for entities. Because local news is a daily dialogue between folks in a relationship, we are held accountable, too, by our readers. Who else but a local newspaper cares about what we care about? About our births and deaths and marriages and church suppers and the state of the economy, not just in the world but in our world? The factory opening or closing may determine the success of a new business or if this is a good time to sell or buy a home. This is news we need to know.
I would argue that the local newspaper is every bit as much a part of a functioning local society as the police and fire departments.
Sure, there is no shortage of news available. There is the exact opposite of a shortage of news available!¿There is an avalanche-glut-pain-in-the-butt-load of news, but how much of it is, really, our news? How often do we lose something important in the static of so much that is interesting?
You who are reading this right now are the smart kids in class. The local newspaper — this paper right here and right now — is the note we pass each other in class behind the backs of the clueless. We are the cool kids.
Ask around, “Do you take the paper?” Consider it an IQ test and have fun with the results. I¿do.
Together we may just stubbornly salvage the big vehicle of local news, lovely reflective chrome and all, and keep her running.