We'd like to say a great big "thank you" for reading this commentary. Not just because we highly value newspaper readers and subscribers, but also because, through this seemingly small act, you are helping preserve democracy.
Amid all the derisive commentary about "The Media" (as though there aren't thousands of independent news outlets) -- how untrustworthy it is, how unfair, how sensational, how biased -- it's easy to forget how important your newspaper truly is.
OK, this may seem self-serving, but there is a much larger issue. Comparable to Americans' imperfect form of government, the local newspaper continues to be, despite its flaws, the best available source to discover what's going on.
The newspaper industry, 'tis no secret, faces challenges. We all live in an Internet world. With a few touches of a key, many sources of information open up, many of them at little or no cost. (Most S.C. newspapers are part of that cyber mix.) Sure, modern life is stressful. Who has time to read a daily newspaper? Isn't it simpler to go online and select the news most pertinent to us?
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Yet the news vehicle you are holding is vital to our well-being as an informed and educated nation. Television - with the possible exception of public TV - usually provides mere sound bites, nothing close to a fleshed-out story. Cost constraints at many stations dictate that their features are often canned, sensational tidbits emanating from states far away or from Tinseltown, providing nothing more in-depth than the evening traffic report.
Here's a radical notion: What happens with Britney is not very important. But what happens on city council or in a meeting of the school board affects us more than we may realize.
On the Internet, readers often seek out blogs or Web sites that promote one point of view (the blogger's). This can be dangerous. If citizens are aware of only one side of an issue, they cannot make an informed decision in the voting booth; they are likely to remain ignorant of the misdeeds and excesses of government; they may think of fellow citizens as bad people rather than as principled dissenters, and they may find themselves depending on one or two national voices to coach them in what to think.
At times newspapers report news that their readers do not wish to know, and publish commentary that some readers passionately dispute. But news consists of the facts at hand, the truth as its fallible gatherers know it. As for the times when the ideas expressed on opinion pages contradict yours, remember that exposure to viewpoints that challenge our own is vital to intellectual growth (this goes for editors, too).
Unfortunately, ignorance is not bliss: Without a newspaper, how else will the afflicted be comforted and the comfortable be afflicted - afflicted, at least, with a conscience-tugging recognition of others' struggles? How else will we remain a community? The health of a nation depends upon this endangered news species.
Thanks again for reading.
Adapted from an editorial in The Free-Lance Star of Fredericksburg, Va. Used with permission.