Garner: Opinion

Column: There’s a heap of value in a newspaper

Johnny Whitfield, columntst The Eastern Wake News and the Garner-Cleveland Record.
Johnny Whitfield, columntst The Eastern Wake News and the Garner-Cleveland Record. tiwabu@newsobserver.com

In the proliferation of special weeks, months and days, there are a great many observances that go by the wayside unnoticed.

But there is one that begins Oct. 5, which I hope you will take a moment to consider.

Today marks the beginning of National Newspaper Week across the country. It might seem simple enough to figure out why I might want you to observe that celebration and you wouldn’t be wrong, completely.

The newspaper business has paid my bills for nearly 25 years. All of us at this newspaper want you to know that newspapers – in all their many forms: print, online, on your mobile device – are a value to each and every one of you who sit down to take a look at the news of the day.

All that would be true, but it would be only part of the story explaining why I want you to celebrate.

Truth is, as a kid growing up, I was not Mr. Popular. I wasn’t invited to the parties the cool kids threw. I wasn’t asked to tutor other kids on their homework. Often, I heard the news of the day from other young people after it had happened.

I’m still not Mr. Popular in many quarters Now, though, people expect me and our reporters to be in the know. They ask me what happened at the last town meeting, or what building is going up on that construction site they passed on the way home. I like that responsibility. And it puts a certain amount of pressure on us to stay up with the news.

But that’s what excites me about newspaper work. I enjoy listening to other people when they talk about what they’d like to see in the newspaper. I enjoy finding out what’s happening in our community. And I enjoy the challenge of sharing that information with readers in a way that makes sense to the broadest swath of people we serve.

Journalism is perhaps the only profession enshrined in our Constitution. The First Amendment gives us freedom of the press, among other things. Among our greatest challenges in exercising our freedom is the free flow of information from governments that serve the people. At times, that information flows freely. Other times, well, it simply does not. Regardless, people turn to their newspaper to give them the information they need or want.

Community newspapers, like this one, are different animals than our daily brethren. You won’t see news about Afghanistan in this newspaper. You won’t read about presidential campaigns in your local paper. You will see lots of coverage of our local athletes, you’ll see honor rolls recognizing the good work that our students produce in school. And, yes, you’ll see stories about the local government because we know people want to be informed about such things.

And all those things are important to our readers. And when bad news breaks out, we want to be there as well, even if it’s a big challenge to gather that information.

So this week, I hope you’ll consider the role newspapers play in your life.

And if you want to tell us what you think, well, we’re all ears.

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