June 9, 2012, will mark the 200th anniversary of the Tribune Chronicle and its predecessor newspapers. The general public often takes the newspaper for granted, not taking it seriously, and even feeling disdain for it. But through it, we receive information, share information and discuss among ourselves the value of the information. The best papers are part of the conscience and character of a community.
Years ago, a friend declared that she was canceling her subscription to the newspaper because she was outraged with an editorial comment. I replied that she might have clarified her point to the general public if she had written a letter to the editor stating how she disagreed with the editorial stance. She was not inclined to do that. The newspaper provides a forum for the community. She missed an opportunity to participate in that forum.
While an editorial may be upsetting on occasion, it may provide a different point of view than yours, and thereby possibly give you a different perspective to consider. A good newspaper keeps its news reporting unbiased and separate from its editorial stance.
On another occasion, I attended a wedding in another community. During the reception, I was in conversation with a lawyer friend. I stated that I had thought about writing an article about the importance of newspapers. The lawyer, who is an avid computer wonk, responded, "You had better do it soon. Next year may be too late!"
Later, I had an opportunity to talk with a newspaper publisher I know. I recounted this conversation. He said he understood. "The future is always challenging and newspapers may take a different form someday," he said. "Nearly every newspaper already has a web site. For years to come, however," my friend continued, "newspapers will be about as we know them now, as long as they are well managed, accountable, provide good writing, help expand horizons and deliver the information their readers want."
When I was a kid, there wasn't a TV in our home. I learned about local and world affairs by cutting out stories and photos from newspapers. The 1938 hurricane, the flight of the Hindenburg zeppelin over Brockton, Massachusetts, (where we lived) and Ted Williams' home runs come to mind. Later, being too young for service during World War II, I followed the action with clippings of stories and maps about far away places where family and neighbors went during the war. I still have those scrapbooks. I learned to rely upon newspapers, and took from them what I judged to be important.
Young people today are growing up with TV, radio, and the Internet, which means they are learning to depend on electronics for news, knowledge, entertainment and inspiration. Whatever the format, people will always need news. Newspapers, however, can inform people in a more effective way about vital issues of government, education, finance, safety, and civic and athletic events. They can celebrate notable personalities; provide a record of marriages, births, and deaths and they can make known where the best buys and sales can be found. It is all there, but the aggressive "Extra! Extra! Read all about it!" is gone. Today, the reader must take the initiative to buy the paper.
TV is capitalizing on the newspapers' strong suit: in-depth coverage. But, in their four stories per hour, the TV news magazines often do not have the timeliness and urgency of newspaper reporting. They sometimes report feature stories that happened months or even years earlier. With use of the Freedom of Information Act when needed, newspaper reporters can bring all the vital budgetary and government program information to the public's eye, usually within a day or two.
Merry Christmas to one and all and may you have a happy New Year with the best of communications.