A Facebook meme that’s been making the rounds says something like, “Imagine how better our lives would be if there were no media.” Many gleefully responded how wonderful that would be and others quickly jumped on the bandwagon, completely forgetting the importance of the First Amendment.
Similar attacks against the media seem to be popping up more and more in my personal Facebook feeds – how terrible and self-serving the media is.
I’m hoping that by “media,” they’re not referring to their local, hometown newspaper. But sometimes I’m not so sure. People post all kinds of criticisms and judgements against the newspaper, which they have every right to do, but I’ll admit, the constant drumbeat of negativity is deflating at times. It spills over into the newspaper’s Facebook page when people angrily complain about having to pay to read our stories.
It helps when I remember that this anti-media mentality isn’t new. The media has always been a magnet for naysayers and attacks. Recently, I came across a column I wrote almost exactly 30 years ago, May 3, 1991, entitled, “Defending popular scapegoat.”
Here are some excerpts (some references are dated, of course, but they still add insights):
From time to time, we at the paper hear people complain, “Why should I buy that newspaper of yours – there’s nothing in it.”
People have a right to complain. In fact, we encourage and appreciate constructive criticism. We know we’re not perfect and we’re always looking for ways to improve.
But those who say there’s “nothing” in the newspaper should give it another look. If you take a quick perusal over the front pages of the newspaper since the year began, here’s what you’ll find:
Twenty-one localized stories about the Persian Gulf – from the moment the bombs fell to a local soldier’s joyous welcome home.
Seven stories about what kind of impact Gov. Arne Carlson’s budget will have locally – on school districts, county services, the tech college, property owners.
Scores of accidents, tragedies, mishaps – from severe car crashes to damaging fires, to the recovery of a drowning victim, to a pickup falling through the ice, to five sudden deaths over Easter weekend.
Human interest stories that touch the heart – a little girl getting a more attractive face thanks to laser technology; preemie twins fighting a courageous battle to live; the medical “first” of a pregnant woman who successfully underwent a liver transplant.
There were dozens of stories addressing social issues of paramount importance – crowded nursing homes, compulsive gambling, recession and crime, hungry children, date rape, health care, drinking and driving.
Many stories dealt with state or national issues and showed how they affect Douglas Countians – such as how the L.A. police beating caused local authorities to review their use of force policies…
The front page also contained “scoops” that you read here first – news of a Target store locating here… breaking updates on the legal battle between Selective TV and Viking Vision; a $1.4 million program to revitalize downtown Alexandria…
Another point to keep in mind – all the front-page stories and photographs you see aren’t the work of 87,000 reporters each pounding a separate beat. We have a news staff of three.
If you’re still convinced the newspaper has “nothing” in it, remember, all the stories mentioned above appeared on our front page only. I haven’t even touched upon the inside pages, or our coverage of county board, city council, school board and other public meetings.
There’s more, much more…
In short, the newspaper delivers stories and information that shape our everyday lives, our everyday thoughts. It keeps us informed, entertained, challenged.
When I wrote that column, there was no internet, of course, no Echo Press website with constant updates 24/7. Although mind blowing changes have taken place in the 30 years since that column appeared, the newspaper’s commitment to bring readers the news from Douglas County remains the same. We take pride in what we do and the effort and teamwork that goes into putting out a quality newspaper and a website day after day. Through all the negativity, that’s what keeps me going.
“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.