The value of a newspaper
ďThere will always be value in what we do.Ē
A newspaper industry veteran who has been around the business even longer than my 30-plus years made that statement during a recent conversation about the future of the industry, and itís absolutely true. A newspaper ó even a weekly one ó is a tremendous asset to a community, especially if itís done right.
We try hard to produce a good newspaper here in Carroll County, and weíre blessed with a staff thatís quite frankly uncommonly talented for a paper and a community this size. Two of us spent a combined total of nearly 30 years working for the statewide daily. I ran a daily newsroom for years in Pine Bluff, and reporter Robert Cox was editor of the weekly newspaper in Perryville, Mo., before I badgered him into joining our staff.
Unlike us two old guys, associate editor Samantha Jones hasnít worked anywhere else, and itís my sincere hope that she never does. I hired Sam right out of college, less than a month after I arrived here, and she has blossomed into a first-rate journalist.
The three of us make for a pretty solid newsroom team, if I do say so myself. In fact, since Robert joined us in December, I think the paper is the strongest that itís ever been ó at least in my seven years here.
Consistently, our newspaper is chock-full of local news. Our goal is to have every inch of news hole filled with something relevant to Carroll County. Now, every now and then, we have a slow news week and have to publish a little bit of what we call ďfillerĒ but itís fairly infrequently.
Our readers donít depend on us for national and international news. Those news stories are everywhere. What we hope to provide is news that our readers canít find somewhere else. We want to tell our readers whatís going on in Carroll County ó†and we want our reporting to be aggressive, objective and most of all, accurate.
I love news and I love digging it up. Iíll even admit that my favorite news stories are the ones that someone doesnít want published. Our job is to bring truth to light, and sometimes that makes us unpopular. So be it.
Yes, there will always be value in what we do. The challenge that we have to recognize is that for us to remain relevant, our readers have to recognize that value. Thatís the tricky part, with many people now rushing to label any news that they donít like as Ö Iíll say untrue news. Thereís another term thatís taken hold in society and it makes me want to throw something.
Weíre competing not just with other newspapers and television stations that will show up in Carroll County to cover the beginning of a story and then the end while we follow the story step by step. Our competition now is also social media, where anyone with a cell phone can post whatever information they like, without being bound by the same principles as trained, ethical journalists.
Itís interesting to me that the news stories we get the most complaints about are ones that are based on public documents. Meanwhile, some of the same folks who complain about legitimate news coverage hop on Facebook and post and share information that is patently false without a care in the world.
Another challenge that we face is engaging younger readers.
Some of our older readers grew up reading the newspaper. For too many of our younger folks, thatís not true. They donít recognize the real need to stay informed about whatís going on in their own community.
This isnít meant to be a cry for sympathy.
I know full well that there are many people in our community who appreciate the role we play and understand the value of our newspapers. I hear from those folks fairly often, and I always enjoy those conversations.
We are committed to what we do, and weíll keep doing it. Because, whether everyone realizes it or not, this community needs us.