NATIONAL NEWSPAPER WEEK, OCT. 7-13
This is National Newspaper Week (Oct. 7-13), and it’s the perfect time to remind our readers about how important daily and weekly community journalism is to them.
This realization goes back to the very foundations of our nation. In drafting the Bill of Rights — the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution — the founders wanted to ensure that Americans would enjoy the free flow of ideas; would be free to examine the quality of their institutions and those who serve them; to say freely what they think; to read and write about government; and to publish information and critiques without hindrance or official interference.
The brilliance of the First Amendment is at once awesome and wondrous. With the stroke of a pen, it created an open society, one that places its faith in free speech and in a free press; one that is ready to expose the actions of public officials to the people, who, once fully informed, will make their own choices and decisions.
We owe much to the framers of the Constitution. They ensured for us the freedoms that many others can only dream of, that many others have died trying to get.
They saw the press as the keepers of the flame, the guardians of the truth. They saw the press’ role to be a watchdog, not a lap dog. We are to be the public’s eyes and ears, and when we see our officials doing something that is not in the best interest of the public, it is our role to vigorously call it to the attention of our readers and to hold these officials accountable for their actions or inaction.
As you might imagine, this sometimes does not go over well with these officials, who have a self-serving view of why they are in office, but even if they do not agree with us, we give them a forum in which to express their opposite views.
We have said it before, we say it again, and we will keep on saying it until it sinks in: Too many take our freedoms for granted. We have enjoyed them so long that we assume they always will be part of our society.
Community daily newspapers, such as the Times News, and community weeklies, such as those in our company that serve areas of the Lehigh Valley, are reflections of the communities we serve, which is why we have remained relevant and a welcome guest in your homes for so many years.
While major investigations, such as the Watergate case in the early 1970s that brought down President Richard Nixon and many of his colleagues, are cited as journalism’s most important contributions, it is the day-to-day and the week-to-week information we publish that keeps our readers aware and informed of what is going on in their communities.
Our readers look to us not only to bring them the unsettling news that is occurring in their boroughs, townships and villages, but also to spotlight the many commendable actions and events that are happening.
When our officials are contemplating adoption of a controversial law, it is our job to let you know about it in advance so you can weigh in on the discussion and let your elected representatives know how you feel.
When it comes to major elections, such as the mid-terms Nov. 6, the public will turn to us to find out who the candidates are and what they hope to accomplish if they are elected.
We join you in celebrating the milestones of life — births, graduations, engagements, weddings and anniversaries — and we are there at the end, too, with obituaries and funeral services to inform the community of its loss.
In our columns, along with photographs of fires and motor vehicle accidents, you also see photographs of organizations and residents doing good things, ribbon cuttings of new businesses and visual acknowledgment of other important community happenings.
We strive to present our news report in a fair, balanced and accurate way. If we take a point of view, as we often do in this column, we label it as such and feature it on our opinion page. We strive to present our news stories in an unbiased fashion.
Journalism is under attack. It is unsettling for us and for the public we serve when we hear the president of the United States call the media the “enemy of the people.” We believe that painting all of us in the media with that broad brush is a disservice to community journalists and the communities they serve.
Constitutional delegate George Mason put it this way: “Freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.”
Thomas Jefferson, our third president, put the role of the press into sharp focus when he said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
We ask you to join us this week in acknowledging the importance of community newspapers as one of the major keys to an enlightened society.