“A democracy ceases to be a democracy if its citizens do not participate in its governance. To participate intelligently, they need to know what their government has done, is doing and is planning to do on their behalf. Every time an obstacle, whatever its name, is placed in the path of this information, a democracy is weakened and its future threatened. This is the meaning of freedom of the press. It is not only important for democracy, it is democracy. – Walter Cronkite
I will get out of this business as long as it is still a viable business.
I’ve fed this line to dozens of people over the past few years, but what about my friends and colleagues who stay in the journalistic profession? And what about voters and taxpayers and our civic dialogue?
As we move into 2022 and I look at my 62 year old self in the mirror every day, I am obsessed with the future of this industry and all of the people who may be affected by its decline. Above all, I fear that our country will suffer if the local media disappear. It sounds exhilarating, but all I’m asking is people who care about their community look around and wonder what it would be like not to have credible local news sources?
There are several studies to check out, but the truth is that the United States has lost about 2,000 newspapers in the past 15 to 20 years. These same studies have also shown that when communities lose local media coverage, governments impose higher taxes, take more risks with tax dollars, voter turnout declines, and community engagement in civic affairs plummets. brutally. The news deserts are too numerous, and these citizens are suffering.
It is evident, however, that there is a much larger and more fundamental problem looming in the world of mass media than the decline of the print media: it is the decline in the ability to determine the truth from lies.
Print journalism and regular newsrooms – even those of any digital organization like the Huffington Post or BuzzFeed – are considered old and heavy in today’s fast-paced social media environment when news and publications Cultural events are projected instantly into the digital world and then take on a life turn of their own. But the point is, the journalistic standards that have evolved over the past 100 years since the heyday of sensational yellow journalism have served this country well.
We try to be fair and impartial in our media coverage. We will always correct an error. We value readers and their contribution to the stories and what we should be covering. We are working to ensure that important issues are discussed in the public sphere, which we hope will help citizens and leaders make better decisions that will improve our quality of life.
All credible news agencies distinguish very clearly between information and opinion. And none of us in the local media claim to be near perfect. We make mistakes and the quality varies from organization to organization. But we are always trying to improve, to fix what is wrong, and we are always held accountable by you the readers.
And this is where the value of local news agencies lies in relation to much of what is online – we admit our vulnerabilities and don’t try to expose anyone and then slip behind the wall of anonymity. offered to everyone in the digital arena. We’re here at the next meeting, at the next public hearing, in line behind you at the grocery store.
Anonymity and distance are also what help many online information providers to distort reality, making it difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction. By now we’ve all heard the term “echo chamber,” that place online where any of us can get a crazy idea about an issue or validated politicization. It is a sad state.
News gathering organizations have faced all kinds of challenges, from online media giants monopolizing digital advertising, to business ownership, to social media and just the cost of doing business. We love when we see stories from The Smoky Mountain News on the Google News Feed, but we don’t get anything for it.
I got into this business because I was passionate about this intersection of local news and public policy, because I felt it was important for people to know what was going on and be able to participate in discussions about where they are. live. Informed public discourse will always be necessary.