On National Newspaper Week, Oct. 7 to 13, I invite you to picture a future where your community newspaper doesn’t exist.
Most likely it won’t affect your daily life all that much. You go about your work, take care of family obligations, build a life for yourself without batting an eye at the absence of it.
I mean why should you? You get information about local events via Facebook and friends, as long as nothing truly dubious is going on at city hall you probably don’t care enough to attend council meetings, and who really has time to read a newspaper anyway?
There may, however, come a day when you will need local news. Perhaps a local environmental disaster is being covered up by powerful people, you want to know more about a conflict of interest with an elected official and his or her business dealings, a government decision that hurts your community isn’t getting enough press. Or how about every four years, when local politicians begin making promises along the campaign trail?
Now it sounds somewhat grandiose to say our small town newspaper and the words I write in it serve the purpose of upholding democracy. Yet there are times when community news, or the lack thereof, can significantly alter the machinations of democracy on a local level.
Election season, now in full swing, provides a real-life example of how a community newspaper can serve the dual purpose of informing residents and ensuring inaccurate information doesn’t masquerade as fact for long.
Any candidate can go on social media, claim their words as fact and spread those words as far as possible. In a world without a community newspaper, there would be counter-arguments and virtual shouting matches but no tool to get to the bottom of whether the claims of the candidate are fact or fiction.
A community news reporter can debunk claims which don’t have legs to stand on. And that same reporter can remember promises made during the campaign and follow up months and years later to see which promises were kept and which were ignored.
The letters page of a community newspaper allows residents to voice opinions on election-related issues much like social media, but any assertions of fact that are dubious are always fact-checked.
Having a reporter show up at all candidates meetings, which are well-attended but well below the majority of voters, serves to document that these meetings occurred and what was said and promised by soon-to-be elected officials.
So the stories in your local newspaper might not be as sexy as the mayhem and destruction reported on in other larger news outlets, and the newspaper, run by humans who are imperfect, is not a perfect information source. But it is hard at work for you, with integrity and determination.
And by interacting with your local media about what you would like to see covered, we can keep working even harder for you.
Emelie Peacock is the editor of the Hope Standard. Get in touch with her about this editorial or any other local news-related issues at email@example.com.
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