In case you haven’t noticed, this is National Newspaper Week. The theme this year is “Journalism Matters.” Yes, it does. I wouldn’t be doing this if I thought otherwise.
You will read a lot of things in this paper but not “fake news.” You can’t get away with that kind of stuff locally. You will catch us at the grocery store or gas station or a football game and make us explain ourselves. That keeps us on our toes to get it right and should give you the assurance that what you read is accurate.
We are not the “enemy of the people” as Donald Trump harrumphs. That is a dangerous thing to say in a democracy. Thomas Jefferson mused that if he had to choose between “a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” I think we need both. I guess that is why I am not president.
Not everybody loves us, nor should they. We have the right to express ourselves and you have every right to agree or disagree. I have been at this for over 20 years now. Most of my mail is very gratifying. Nothing is more pleasing than to get a “thank you” for something I said that had great meaning to you. But just when my ego is about to soar out of control, I get a note from a reader who wonders if I got my journalism degree from a box of Cap’n Crunch or a Crackerjack box. (Actually, I got my degree from the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Georgia, but, for some reason, they chose not to put it in a box.)
One of the concerns I hear these days is that the newspaper business is dying. Not so. The way the paper is delivered to you may be changing as many papers offer an online option, but nowhere else are you going to find in one place road closings, school calendars, county and city commission meetings, funerals, sports reports and the musings of a modest and much-beloved columnist than right here.
The Woman Who Shares My Name reminds me that it is here where you find positive news, too. Good people in the community doing good things. Civic club projects, student achievements, fun runs, festivals and fairs. Try finding that in the gloom-and-doom national media.
Lest you think National Newspaper Week is just an excuse to pat ourselves on the back (well, OK, maybe a little), you are a part of the equation. It is our job to give you all the relevant information and opinion we can gather together and present it to you. It is your job to do something with it.
We have an election coming up in a few weeks and will be selecting a new governor, several members of Congress, state officers, legislators and assorted others. Read the paper. Gather the facts. Make your decision and then go vote. In these turbulent times in which we live, ignorance is not bliss and apathy is not an option.
Once we get them elected, it will be our collective job to keep an eye on them and see how they do with keeping their campaign promises (I think we both know where that one is going), spending our tax dollars and what decisions they make and why.
One of the challenges we have is to remind our intrepid public servants that they work for us, not vice versa, and to do our business out in the open. That is where the newspaper comes into play. We can even the odds a bit by shining the spotlight on them and their lizard-loafered lobbyist friends and the deep-pocketed, out-of-state special interest crowds with whom they share drinks, dinners, ballgames and outings but who never, ever influence their political decisions. Oh, barf.
But it’s not all politics. We can have a little fun, too. I have found that humor is in short supply these days. I like nothing better than pricking the thin skins of the politically correct. They have the sense of humor of a tree stump. Bless their hearts.
As we celebrate National Newspaper Week, let’s make a pledge. If you will keep reading, I will keep writing (assuming that’s OK with the editors, of course.) We are a team.
Journalism does matter. I am glad to be a part of it and I’m glad you are, too.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb.