What do you care most about in life?
Most of us would put family at, or near, the top of such a list. Friends would be there. So would our jobs or businesses, our livelihoods. Our homes. Maybe our pets. Our hobbies and pastimes. Add in those around us: Neighbors, the community, etc. That’s our world, our “sphere of influence.” Whatever happens to those who inhabit that place in our hearts and lives means something to us.
We pay attention. We laugh. We cry. We hurt. We rejoice.
And that is what wellrun newspapers do, too. (The italics on well-run are mine.)
As I have traveled the nation this past year, it’s been reassuring to see so many dedicated men and women who see newspapering as so much more than a “job.” Newspapering is a job in the same sense that being a father or mother is a “job.”
Parents are responsible for the well-being of their family. Good newspapers take on that role with the communities we serve. Newspapers are vigilant in protecting our communities from destructive influences, both from without and within. Newspapers sound the alarm with swift, accurate and thorough coverage when sensitive issues arise. We provide not just facts, but clearly labeled editorials and analysis stories that offer in-depth points — and counterpoints — to help everyone weigh matters with sufficient information.
Newspapers also serve as “points of pride” where communities celebrate individual and collective achievement, offering congratulations and joining in mass celebration. Newspapers serve communities in sad times as well, providing clear, concise facts about tragic events, their causes and how they might be prevented from re-occurring. When communities are sick or injured, newspapers bleed. We share the pain and shed tears along with our readers.
If the newspaper I’ve described sounds like a living, breathing thing … that’s because they are. Despite what a few might have you believe, newspapers are far from dead.
As long as parents take pride in the birth of a baby, a home run by their Little Leaguer, or graduation, marriage, promotion or any number of life’s milestones, people will enjoy reading about them in their community newspaper.
As long as people care about who died in their community this week, how high their taxes may rise or who scored the winning touchdown at the high school football game — community newspapers will be alive.
As long as bulletin boards and refrigerator doors display cherished family memories, community newspapers will be alive.
John Donne said: “No man is an island.” Because we don’t live isolated lives, apart from everyone around, newspapers are going to be here to help us celebrate, mourn and record life’s history as it happens. Newspapers are the “tie that binds” people together.
And in the words of that old hymn: “Blest be the tie that binds.”
Thanks for reading your newspaper during National Newspaper Week.
ROBERT M. WILLIAMS, JR. is a weekly newspaper publisher in Georgia and president of the National Newspaper Association, representing more than 2,500 daily and weekly newspapers across America. Email him at rwilliams@ atc.cc.