I love the newspaper business, but being a publisher these days takes a stout heart.
Here in just the last few months, newspapers have come under attack from all sides in what almost feels like a concerted effort to sign our death warrant.
The rules are constantly being rewritten, or attempted to be rewritten, on public notice advertising. Our state legislature is constantly doing things to roll back and weaken Kentucky’s Open Records Act. In addition, a bill has been filed this legislative session to, again, end the requirement that sample election ballots be printed in your local newspaper.
Budgetary information and reports that used to be required advertising only a few years ago by towns and school districts have migrated to the Internet where they are buried, or where they never really appear at all.
One state legislator has a bill going right now that would hinder our ability to do timely reporting of disasters! To heck with the First Amendment, I guess.
Postal rates are always on the rise for our publications. Add to that a plan to institute a tax on advertising sales and it’s enough to give someone like me an ulcer.
Let me just say, you should view an attack on your community newspaper as an attack on you. Make no mistake, it’s an attempt to weaken a vital information link.
I’ve always despised this idea that so much public notice advertising is going online. There’s no permanency to it. Electronic files floating around the digital ether can be lost or altered. No one is checking to make sure the information that is supposed to be there actually is there! In that sense, your community newspaper has served a vital function — as a watchdog making sure the right thing was done. It impedes your ability to know what’s truly going on with taxpayer dollars.
And that’s exactly why these things are happening.
No one should wonder why newspapers bear the brunt of government ire. It’s no secret why the going keeps getting rougher for good old newsprint. It’s precisely because our particular form of media is one of the few that actually investigates things and digs deep into what’s going on to find out the truth. We are the backbone of the news industry. So much of what you see on your TV nightly news or hear on the radio was printed in a newspaper first. Your local newspaper is where the vast majority of stories actually are born.
I can promise you, if newspapers ceased to exist today, the reporting you’d see, by and large, would be much more surface-skimming, public relations fluff. Thirty seconds to a minute of airtime is not enough to devote to really telling a proper story. It just isn’t! And don’t even get me started on “citizen journalist” who are “reporting” through partisan websites, online blogs or social media. Wading into that for news is like leaping into a pit of vipers.
I feel fortunate to work for a strong community newspaper. I hear from people everyday who tell me what an important part of their lives the News Journal is on a weekly basis.
I can promise you, we think everyday about the readers that we serve and how best we can keep the public informed about what’s going on in their community. It gets tougher and tougher all the time. But we manage. We’ve got your back.
Hopefully, you’ve got ours as well.