Newspapers are still alive, relevant, giving service to communities and to the people they serve, and vital to the public at large. Special weeks such as this serve to reflect on newspapers and the role they play in our society.
First and foremost they exist to inform people of what is going on in their communities; they bring advertising messages from merchants; they serve as watchdogs over government at all levels; they comment on issues and through letters to the editor newspapers give public voices to citizens; and there is a certain amount of entertainment value to readers.
In their editorials, newspapers don’t expect readers to always agree with their positions on issues. However, if an editorial stimulates thoughts about issues, the mission is completed. Most newspapers, such as The Record, welcome letters to the editor. They are published as long as they meet standards established by the newspaper. Most letters meet the standards.
One of the important roles of a newspaper is the publishing of public notices. There have been moves to try to eliminate the publishing of these “legal notices” in newspapers. That would be a mistake. Publishing them online would not have the reach to the public that newspapers have and many of the notices would be overlooked. Newspapers provide a lasting record. Newspapers certify publication of the notices, which is an important record. People look for the notices in the newspaper.
Newspapers serve their communities. When a town loses its newspaper it has lost a vital asset. The unfortunate change that has occurred is that giant corporations have entered the newspaper field. Even in small towns they have acquired newspapers. They cut staff to the bone and no longer do a good job in comprehensive reporting. The giant corporations’ main interest is the bottom line. Service to the communities is not a high priority with them.
Newspapers record the history of the towns they serve. No other source has a more complete history of a town or city than the local newspaper.
Surveys have revealed that readers of newspapers are more likely to vote than nonreaders. Newspapers are best when it comes to in-depth stories about candidates and issues.
These are challenging times for newspapers, especially many of the large ones. Community newspapers, generally speaking, in the smaller towns are holding their own. But adjustments have been made by most of them. The times require commitment and that is true for many small businesses today. There have been other belt-tightening eras. The survivors are the ones with a strong sense of community and commitment.