Several weeks ago, staff members at the University of Georgia’s independent student newspaper, The Red & Black, staged a walkout after they felt their journalistic ethics compromised due to administrative changes. This week of all weeks, it’s refreshing to know that this level of journalistic integrity, ethics and passion exists.
It’s refreshing to know that they still believe in the written word.
This week is National Newspaper Week, an annual observance that aims to remind even the most jaded among us of the value — and the power — of print and the press.
Even as sources continue to paint a picture of doom and gloom, suggesting a bleak, dark future for newspapers, these young student journalists stood and fought for the core values of a profession they still someday hope to enter. Call them naïve, but these students still believe in print, and undoubtedly, so do more of us than reports would have us believe.
According to the Newspaper Association of America data, newspapers reach more than 100 million adults — nearly 6 in 10 of the U.S. adult internet population — during a typical month. Consumers age 25 and above still are the core audience for print, but newspapers also reach nearly 60 percent of the critical 18-to-34 demographic in print and online during an average week.
It shouldn’t take this week-long observance to remind us that newspapers are the cornerstone for any community. They are the mouthpiece when issues of public concern arise, a voice for the voiceless to feel empowered. Newspapers also provide a printed chronicle of our community’s history, even as access to other historical records dwindle right before our eyes. Just recently, officials announced cuts to Georgia’s State Archives, limiting access to our very history, the result of budget reductions. Oftentimes we forget the value of such resources until they are gone. This recent move should remind us of the important role our newspapers play in chronicling our history and serving as historical record, not only for our communities but for our families as well. Birth announcements, first touchdowns scored, weddings and obituaries, all clipped and saved in scrapbooks and on refrigerator doors, tell a story of us that would not be possible without community newspapers.
While news blogs and websites provide vehicles for national and international analysis, what they often don’t do is provide information on local issues. It is especially true for the elderly and those with low incomes who often have less access to computers and transportation.
As valuable as they are to all of us, other media sources simply do not provide the information on issues impacting the local level as newspapers can and often do. Instead they often steer us in reverse, to a more exclusive, narrow focus, where we are selective of the information we choose to emphasize and only focus on points that align with our own views, limiting the potential for new thought and ideas.
Ask the people of New Orleans or of Joplin, Mo., about newspapers’ value.
The long-standing, nationally-recognized Times-Picayune published its last daily print edition earlier this month despite public outcry. This paper that published amid Katrina and survived, no longer exists in its same print form, and neither do the stories of the people of New Orleans as a result. As tornadoes waged a path of destruction in Joplin nearly two years ago, our sister community newspaper, The Joplin Globe, chronicled the story, serving as the resource for residents to relocate family members and tell their stories first-hand. The award-winning journalism that resulted will re-tell the story of the Midwest tornadoes for generations to come as no other media source could do.
It’s another solemn, yet powerfully refreshing reminder of the impact of print on our lives.
It also reminds us of why it, and we, still matter.
At their best, community newspapers like our own are the constant source of local information. In good times and in bad, they focus on community. They are at the very core of the ties that bind us, and they chronicle it all each day.
If the staff at the Red & Black with their iPads, laptops, social media and smart phones realize that print still matters, then why shouldn’t we all?
Newspapers and what we stand for still matter, and fighting the good fight does, too.