Comedian Rodney Dangerfield’s famous line was he “got no respect.” Unfortunately, a poll by Pew Research shows respect for the profession of journalism has declined in the last few years. Only 28 percent of respondents said journalists contribute “a lot” to society’s well being. Only lawyers and business executives ranked lower than the media.
But I would strongly argue that South Carolina’s daily and weekly newspaper journalists are far more respected by their communities. It’s National Newspaper Week, so let me encourage you to thank the local reporters, editors and photographers who cover your community. They work long and irregular hours, often at nights and on weekends, to cover your county council meetings, school boards and high school football games. They work under increasing deadline pressure – posting stories to the Internet, often as they break. When they make a mistake, it’s out there for the world to see. They stand up regularly for your right to know how the government is making decisions and spending public money.
They are there to cover the good things and the bad things, often when others in the community are home with their families.
Newspaper reporters carry the bulk of the load when it comes to “watchdog” journalism in our state. Whether it’s a massive report on violence against women, a story on council members being paid for indirect expenses or efforts to hold a secret hearing on charges against the Speaker of the House of Representatives, newspaper reporters are aggressive watchdogs. From the courthouse to the statehouse, they’vegot your back.
Georgia publisher Robert M. Williams Jr. wrote that during his travels as president of the National Newspaper Association, it was “reassuring to see so many dedicated men and women who see newspapering as so much more than a ‘job.’ ” He compared newspapers to parenting. “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 also serve as ‘points of pride’ where communities celebrate individual and collective achievement,” Williams concluded. As an S.C. editor told a group the other day, newspapers journalists don’t do it for the money, they do it because they feel they make a difference and because they love their jobs. There’s a lot of truth to that. No one does community news better.
South Carolina’s newspapers have been around for 282 years, and we’re committed to telling the Palmetto State’s story for many years to come.
Rogers is executive director of the S.C. Press Association, which represents the state’s 109 newspapers.