Uncovering the truth about community journalism
As long as I can remember, the newspaper always played a relevant role in the community I grew up in as well as in my own life.
From the time I had my picture along with my prize-winning hog published in the local newspaper as a young 4-H member, I have always cherished the local newspaper as being vital in building self confidence in people to become future leaders and creating stronger communities. My 4-H days are long gone, but that hasn’t changed my love for print journalism.
Last week I had the opportunity to talk about the importance of community journalism at a panel discussion with Steele County Indivisible in Owatonna. It is a group committed to continuing the progressive movement begun by the Women’s March and encouraging grassroots activism at the local, regional and national levels.
Indivisible brought Jeffrey Jackson, managing editor of the Owatonna People’s Press, and myself together to share our experiences with community journalism. Some of the topics included surviving in the age of the Internet, skills needed for modern journalists, new judgment guidelines and how online affects the stories covered.
First of all, I’d like to point out how fortunate residents of this area are to have a pair of strong award-winning newspapers serving their informational needs. Both the People’s Press and our newspaper have consistently won journalism awards. To top it off, they both have journalists committed to community journalism.
I also like to remind people that community newspapers are vital to uncovering the successes, failures, triumphs, misgivings and shortcomings of people within the community. Newspapers are here to celebrate right along with the community, but they also serve an important role to expose the truth whether it’s good or maybe not so good.
On the topic of social media, my view is always the same. Social media has its place, but it is not a source of credible news. It does not provide factual and reliable information where newspapers have trained journalists to cover the news.
As the newspaper industry as a whole continues to struggle, mostly the larger daily newspapers, I like people to remember our newspaper is funded solely by advertising support and subscriptions. In our case at the Times, we have no large corporation to fall back onto, and we’re not like government agencies or school districts that can utilize tax levies or go to the public for referendums or other tax support to keep things afloat. Advertising and subscriptions are our only sources of revenue.
I reminded members of the Indivisible group that the best thing they can do for us is support local journalism through reading newspapers, subscribing to them and urging businesses and organizations to advertise. It’s also important for people to let businesses know that their advertisements are being read.
The consensus of members was that community journalism is important to our communities. With that in mind, it takes everyone to work together to keep the newspaper relevant in an ever-changing society.
I hope you will join me in going in hot pursuit of keeping community journalism strong for years to come.