Journalism matters in your community

Jim Zachary

Beyond the noise of the Beltway and the daily vilification of national media outlets, are community newspapers serving cities, counties and regions throughout the U.S.

Your local newspaper is far from being The Fake News.

Your newspaper is most definitely not The Enemy of the People.

In fact, the paper is the eyes, ears and voice of the people.

The people who work down at the paper are your friends, neighbors or maybe even your relatives.

They are dedicated men and women who work hard every day to inform, educate and entertain you.

Perhaps presidents and political figures have always railed against the media when they feel as if they are under attack.

But not like this.

President Donald J. Trump’s all-out assault on journalists is beyond the pale.

When he calls the media the enemy of the people and says the news they report is fake, he has gone way too far.

If he feels the need to push back against certain reports because he believes those specific stories contain false information, that is fair game.

But to malign journalism itself and to paint all journalists with one broad stroke is irresponsible and even dangerous to an open and free society.

The media must play an important role as the Fourth Estate, hold government in check and shine the light on all the actions of our governors. That is the very intention of the First Amendment.

The president does not seem to understand, or care, that all journalists everywhere — even here in your hometown — feel they are under constant attack.

That includes the reporter sitting next to you at the county commission meeting, the editorialist questioning a property tax increase by local government and the photographer taking pictures at your child’s school play.

Each of these local journalists is someone’s son, daughter, husband, wife, father, mother, brother, sister or cousin. They are not your enemies or the purveyors of fake news.

They have no desire to spread falsehoods.

They are decent people with tons of integrity. Many of them are young people just getting started in their careers, full of idealism and hope that in their own small way they can help make their own little corner of the world a better place.

Just imagine how it must make them feel every time someone parrots the loose words of the president and calls them The Fake News and The Enemy of the People.

Actually, they see themselves as truth tellers whose only desire is to serve their community. They do so by going to city council meetings, covering high school football games, telling the stories of your neighbors, sharing information about things to do, and, yes, by holding local government accountable when necessary.

You may support President Trump and his policies, but please do not join the president in his vitriol toward the press and vilification of the fine, hard-working men and women who are out covering meetings and events in the community each day.

It might even be nice during National Newspaper Week, when you see a reporter at a community event, your club or organization, at your child’s school or covering a public meeting to go up to them and simply thank them for what they do.

Jim Zachary is the Deputy National Editor of CNHI and the Editor of the Valdosta (Georgia) Daily Times.

Jim Zachary