Newspapers provide tool for real news
By Gene Kemmeter
Last week, from Oct. 1 to 8, newspapers across the nation observed National Newspaper Week. The theme “Real Newspapers…Real News” points to the importance of accurate reporting, watchdog journalism, thought-provoking commentary, comprehensive public notices and an open public forum that can be easily accessible for readers.
The Portage County Gazette was founded in 1999 with the primary intention to provide the Portage County area with a journalistic source for news and information. The founders had been involved in news reporting for more than a combined 100 years and wanted those cherished virtues to continue for future generations.
Since that time, the newspaper industry has suffered a setback, as readership and distribution sagged, with residents seeking free “news” on the internet to get their information, even though those “freebies” were undependable, irresponsible or unreliable, often one’s opinion or propaganda, rather than facts.
In the last few years, the term “fake news” has echoed through the nation, and some have claimed traditional media have failed to report stories that turned out in the end to be bogus or made up. Americans have relied on social media as their source of information, only to find out later that the story was a figment of the imagination or an attempt to purposely mislead readers.
Local newspapers are undoubtedly the most trustworthy sources for news and information for a number of reasons:
– Newspapers are staffed with real people – reporters, photographers, editors who gather the news, conduct interviews, cover meetings, attend events, write, edit, fact-check and make sure readers can trust what they read. Staffs are not shadowy figures masquerading as others, as is often the case on the internet.
– Newspapers rely on recognizable sources. Quotes in articles are attributed to real people and can be easily verified. Sources give readers context and balance. Newspapers are committed to the neighborhoods, cities, counties, states and coverage areas they serve.
– Newspapers can make mistakes, but correct them. Everyone makes mistakes at times, but there is a big difference between an error and intentionally and knowingly publishing a false report because of some political or social agenda.
– Newspapers have a long and important legacy of holding the powerful accountable, defending the First Amendment and advocating for government transparency. Websites, blogs and social media do not correct errors. They seem to thrive on them.
Democracy is protected when newspapers provide checks and balances as the Fourth Estate of society, giving a voice to the voiceless and empowering the powerless, from city hall to the courthouse to the statehouse to Congress to the White House. Newspapers hold government accountable because government belongs to the governed and not to the governing.
Don’t be embarrassed because some sensational, agenda-driven report was shared on social media, only to find out it is totally fake. Get news where real news has always been found: A local newspaper is the real deal. A newspaper gives Americans the tools necessary to differentiate between fake news and real news.