Community Journalism the role of the media

In today’s world, journalism really does matter

The bag that I carry gets a variety of reactions from an assortment of people.

A stark black bag with a simple white font featuring the phrase, ‘Journalism Matters, #Nottheenemy’ is met by some with scoffs, others with disdain and even a few positive, ‘Hey, I like your bag!’

Those I suspect come from closet journalists or perhaps subscribers to a newspaper.

“Journalism Matters!” takes on different meanings for all kinds of journalists.

June 28 will mark one year since five individuals who worked at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland were killed.

Gerald Fischman, 61, the newsroom’s editorial page editor; Rob Hiaasen, 59, an editor and features columnist; John McNamara, 56, a sports reporter and editor for the local weekly papers; Wendi Winters, 65, a local news reporter and community columnist; and Rebecca Smith, a sales assistant, all lost their lives.

The shooter took revenge about a story that had been published in the newspaper, a piece similar to ones that our papers have previously published. I would hazard a guess that the majority of publications throughout the newspaper industry have also published similar articles.

Their journalism mattered.

Last week, as yet another shooting unfolded in downtown Dallas, and Dallas Morning News photojournalist Tom Fox was caught in the middle.

When many of us, even trained professional journalists, would have simply hidden from the shooter, Fox captured images that would grace front pages across the nation.

His forethought, bravery and dedication to his craft were on display as the portrait of a shooter in an active shooting situation was captured.

His journalism matters.

For a local newsroom in neighboring Hunt County, staffers at the Greenville Herald Banner stood in shock after severe weather ravaged their community Wednesday, June 19.

Pushing aside worries about their own homes and safety, they reported to work capturing history and providing essential information to their citizens. They embraced the fact that journalism matters.

With no electricity, in oppressive Texas summer temperatures, they picked up the pieces and went to work. They put out a paper and continued to update mobile applications.

In a time of crisis, their journalism mattered. A lot.

With the fourth anniversary of the July 7, 2016 Dallas Police shooting on the horizon, many of us can recall images captured from both professional journalists and those citizen journalists who added to their reporting efforts.

Their memories helped honor the five heroes who tried their best to save lives and countless other officers who stopped the shooter.

Their journalism matters.

And so does ours.

Last year, 53 journalists across the world were killed for their efforts to bring the truth to light. Some died covering wars. Others were murdered over their work.

Without boots on the ground, facts and essential stories would remain hidden.

Truth, such as that brought to light by Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, would remain in the dark.

Khashoggi was killed in a Saudi Arabian consulate after criticizing the Saudi state.

Democracy dies in darkness.

Though not dodging bullets or avoiding car bombs, a passion for local journalism is a feat in itself. Long hours, limited resources and interacting on a daily basis with those who you report on is not for the faint of heart.

In this world, my passion for journalism has only grown. And so has my dedication for covering it.

If you aren’t a subscriber of The Times, or any of our other publications, I encourage you to do so. It’s one of the best investments $33 can get you.

After all, journalism matters.

the role of the media

Newspapers must operate as a business to carry out their First Amendment function

This past weekend my plans included a much-anticipated trip to the movies to see “The Post.” Starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, the movie chronicles a time involving the Pentagon Papers and The Washington Post’s decision to publish them. Facing legal battles up to an injunction to cease publication by the Supreme Court, the paper decided to publish the information to educate the public about the truth behind The Vietnam War and presidential administration after presidential administration lies to cover up the truth.

The movie, without a doubt, is well worth a watch. Anyone who is a proponent of the First Amendment should view the movie. Those who aren’t, let me know and I’ll buy you a ticket.

Perhaps what most impacted me was the following series of quotes from the film:

  • ●Fritz Beebe (chairman of The Post): “If the government wins, The Washington Post will cease to exist.”
  • ●Ben Bradlee (managing editor of The Post): “If we don’t hold them accountable, who will?”
  • ●Kay Graham (publisher of The Post): “We can’t hold them accountable if we don’t have a newspaper.”

These quotes chronicle a centuries old battle between a newspaper’s being a business and providing information. At the basis, all points of view are right. Newspapers and media companies must be solvent in order to serve as a watchdog for their communities.

What disheartens me most is in the world of social media and websites, the world has turned against real journalism. Watching the wide pages of The Washington Post flutter by on an old school press was bittersweet for me, as was the newsroom where line after line of desks for myriad reporters was shown. We don’t get that anymore.

As the newspaper industry has changed, we’ve had to adjust our models to stay solvent and that means doing more with less. Throw in social media, websites, videos … we’ve in some ways had to compromise our journalism. Part of this is our fault and some is our audience’s.

In a recent Knight-Gallup report, an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that the media have an important role to play in our democracy. Fifty-eight percent of Americans say the increased number of news sources makes it harder to be informed. Seventy-three percent of Americans say the spread of inaccurate information on the internet is a major problem with news coverage today, more than any other potential type of news bias.

Another startling statistic is while Americans believe the internet, news aggregators, citizen videos and cable news have had a more positive than negative impact on the U.S. news environment over the past 10 years, the majority (54 percent) say that the impact of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter on the news environment has been negative.

When you put all these together, a clear cut answer is presented. Why aren’t people supporting their local newspapers?

Recently, we wrote an article about new restaurants in town for a publication. The story went into print first, then into our e-edition. A snippet including the first three paragraphs with a link to subscribe to read the rest was placed on our website, then teased to Facebook. This is the journey of the majority of our stories, unless it is something such as breaking news.

We are a business first.

Almost immediately complaints started. Why do we have to subscribe to read the full article? Why do we have to pay? (Our subscriptions are $33 a year and our digital and rack single copy issue price is $1.) That amount helps you get real journalism. We went out and arranged interviews. We talked to the owners. We started a relationship with them and then we crafted a story. With really pretty photos of sesame chicken, mind you.

Somewhere along the way the mindset from that found in “The Post” changed. I’m not sure when newspapers started to be thought of in disposable terms. A newspaper is the one that brought down the Nixon administration and who still hold those in power accountable. Even on a local level.

The following quote was given by the Supreme Court after the 6-3 Pentagon Papers case against The Post and The New York Times.

“In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed … not the governors.”

Isn’t it worth $33 a year to be part of that mission?