Let’s hear it for freedom of the press

Journalists and the news media have come increasingly under attack and while local newspapers like ours have been shielded from the verbal and sometimes physical abuse experienced by those working for larger entities, we still take such incidents personally.

We read this opinion piece written by Tom Stangl for the Burnett County Sentinel in Grantsburg, Wisc. We couldn’t agree more with his thoughts about the importance of newspapers in our lives, so we thought we would share:

How important is a free and independent press?

The founding fathers must have thought it was pretty important. In the First Amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press was one of five freedoms expressly given to all Americans. Extra credit if you can name the other four.

Give up? Freedom of religion, speech, the right of the people to assemble peaceably and to petition the government for grievances are the other four.

The First Amendment has been in place for 227 years and is considered a hallmark of American liberty. It’s been around so long, many of us take it for granted that it will be here forever.

It’s about at this point in the column that I tell you that we can truly never take these rights for granted and that newspapers play a vital role as a watchdog to those in power. Yup, that’s still very true.

So, if this is all so important, why don’t people realize the importance of a healthy and vibrant media?

I think there are several answers to that question.

First and foremost, as an industry, we do a terrible job of self-promotion. I think this stems from believing that people reading our products already “get it,” meaning that by subscribing to or purchasing a newspaper that they accept this basic premise as fact. I think we sometimes believe using space like this to discuss the importance of a healthy free press can be perceived as being whiny or, worse yet, preaching to the choir.

I know that we value the special relationship we have with our readers and we do our best each week to bring you information that you were unaware of and will find interesting or important, so self-promotion may seem like a bit of a stretch.

I think that’s probably why the national week was devised. Having a set point in time each year to recall something important has a proven track record. Birthdays and anniversaries have worked out pretty well for most people.

So, here’s my pitch. Bear with me if you have heard this before, but it bears repeating.

Newspapers have the largest amount of original reporting of any local media. Every issue is the equivalent word count of a novel. Stories are researched and fact checked. We sit at the meetings so you don’t have to. (We would like you to do so, but it’s your time. How you use it is your business.)

Many of these stories would probably never come to light without newspapers. Some improprieties might never come to light or would only come out after substantial damage is done. Other people who have done good things might never receive the recognition they deserve.

Our job is to identify the little things in our community and make a big deal out of them. We celebrate people from birth through every phase of the life and into the grave. We make the first rough draft of history.

It’s a job we take seriously and one we love.

We understand the value of your time and your trust. Every issue we do our best to earn both.

Want to celebrate newspapers? Get a subscription. Ensuring our survival is in everyone’s best interest.

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