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Methods change, message not so much

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Chris MetitationsBy Chris Edwards
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Recently I read something from one of my colleagues in the field of community newspapers here in Texas that provided some good points to chew on as much as it made me want to give the Dionysian/Hook ‘em Horns salute and say “Right on!”

In an excellently penned op-ed piece, the writer explained the need for downsizing his newspaper’s physical space. On one hand, the piece acted as an explanation to the public; to say, “No, we’re not closing our doors. We just don’t need as much space to run a newspaper these days.” On the other hand, it allowed him to reflect on the major changes regarding the production of newspapers, as he had grown up in the business.

The walk down memory lane for the writer contained requisite recollections of lead type and references of burning negatives onto plates from paste-up pages in order to print, and then a marvel at the way desktop computers revolutionized newspaper production.

So, the three or four of you who read my scrawlings faithfully, are likely three sentences into this thinking, “What a bunch of navel-gazing nonsense!”, so I won’t continue rattling on about the seemingly esoteric world of newspaper production; got to keep some secrets about how the alchemy is done behind the scenes, right?

The how did change, and continues to evolve, sure, but the rationale for doing so here in America is the same as it’s been since April 24, 1704, when the Boston News-Letter was first published.

In the digital age, where information travels at scary-fast speeds and often factually devoid social media posts dominate the dissemination of news, the role of newspapers might seem diminished to some, but in this day and age, the connections offered by publications such as this one are vital.

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Too many communities are losing their newspapers, and that is bad. It is bad for economic viability of said communities. It is bad for the accountability of elected officials.

One report, released in 2022 by the Local News Initiative at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, noted that more than one-tenth of the 254 counties in Texas no longer have a local newspaper.

Some have accused me of being a Luddite, as I don’t have much to do with social media, beyond whatever minimal requirements are occasional levied on me, nor is my cellphone current (or smart) enough to download every app that every business or organization attempts to force upon me, or dance across multiple social media platforms, even if I had an interest in such, but I digress. The reason why I make mention of all of that is to cite the fact that newspapers nourish connections; connections that social media does not.

From the cornerstone of preserving the integrity of elected officials to showcasing the triumphs and documenting tragedies within communities, newspapers do all of that and help readers make informed decisions on what they consume.

Civic engagement is another facet in which newspapers prove their worth in small communities. They provide a platform for citizens to voice their opinions, concerns, and ideas. Letters to the editor; guest op-ed columns and community announcements empower individuals to participate in public discourse. This engagement can lead to meaningful discussions, and sometimes even prompt local authorities to address pressing issues. Newspapers thus serve as intermediaries between the community and its leaders, promoting open dialogue and constructive change.

The real representation of the people is not always found in the politicians in office (or with those who pump money into their campaign war chests), but lies within newspapers, chambers of commerce and any organization concerned with honesty and accountability.

As technology continues to do its dance across our culture and within our lives, the newspaper still remains as an integral, vital part of the fabric binding communities.

To paraphrase the main takeaway of the op-ed I cited earlier, sure, the “how” may have changed, but the “why,” not so much.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    David · 8 months ago
    Agreed.  Which is why we (my wife and I) just resubscribed to the Tyler County Booster.  Thanks Chris