It’s become fashionable as of late to knock newspapers.
No doubt, many factors are working against the industry. New tariffs on paper are driving up costs. Changing economics have challenged the business model. Social media has changed the way we digest the news. Newsrooms are getting smaller, and more is being asked of those who remain.
But most chillingly, it has become rhetorical gold for a breed of politician to beat the #fakenews drum, some even going to the extreme of calling the press “the enemy of the people.”
Without a doubt, it is the duty of a newspaper to examine delicate topics. Newspapers fill an important purpose: Serving the public’s need to know. It is unfortunate that the need to know and the want to know are not the same thing, as many of the political and social issues newsrooms have to tackle will not please everyone. Particularly in today’s highly polarized political climate.
But it is one thing to take issue with a particular news organization’s reporting on a subject, and to complain about that reporting. It is another to use that to whitewash an entire industry or profession. Fanning the flames of animosity against journalists is dangerous, whether it comes from the top or locally, and can potentially put lives at risk.
Telling the story of the community isn’t always about telling good news. But neither is it just reporting on sensitive political issues. As an example, here are a few of the topics the Prince William Times covered just in July:
• Athletes of the year from local high schools
• Crossroads Village in Haymarket
• County crime rates
• Developments in the P-Nats potential move to Fredericksburg
• Proposed zoning changes that threaten the rural crescent
• The expanded Haymarket Ice Plex
• A Woodbridge dad who fulfilled his own childhood dream of a treehouse for his kids
• A proposal to build the county’s 62nd elementary school at a Manassas park
• County rules regarding tiny homes
• KKK flyers distributed throughout the county
Celebratory, tragic, infuriating, informative, and definitely not fake news. Journalism isn’t just black and white, there are many shades of gray in between. All are aspects of the story of this community, and all were brought to light by journalists.
Enemies of the people? No. Colleagues and neighbors.