Community newspapers: our eyes and ears

By Jim Davidson
Special to the Kansan

Famous American humorist Will Rogers often said, "All I know is what I read in the newspaper."

While I'm sure there was more truth than fiction in his statement, have you ever thought about where we, as American citizens, would be were it not for the 7,000 plus newspapers across this nation? While I have never worked for a newspaper and don't have a degree in journalism, I am deeply grateful to have over 200 newspapers in 35 states who carry this column. Many of these papers have sent me a sample copy or a complimentary subscription, so I've had a chance to examine the content and the quality of a wide variety of papers from every area of the country.

While you may or may not have thought about the many personal benefits that come from your local newspaper, it's something that is definitely worth a few minutes of our time. The "Newspaper In Education" program in hundreds of communities provide teachers a teaching tool for students to gain practical, useful knowledge in a wide variety of subjects. Since the newspaper cuts across all areas of society, it serves to help prepare young people for what they will face in a highly competitive adult world.

The idea for this column came to me a few weeks ago as I was reading our local newspaper in Conway, The Log Cabin Democrat (a great paper I might add.) When I picked up this particular issue the first article I saw was about one of our state senators who had pleaded "no contest" to a drunk driving charge and had been fined, sentenced to community service and had his driver's license suspended for six months. Then too, like most fast growing communities, we are constantly faced with tax issues that affect our wallets. It's good to have the pros and cons of each issue so we can be better informed.

Another valuable part of our paper is the "Letters to the editor" section, where local citizens are given the opportunity to share their views, complaints, appreciation and a whole hosts of other topics.

The thing I really appreciate about community newspapers is they are much more responsible than other segments of the media. This is because they have a real interest in helping to make their community a better place to live. To be sure, some newspapers, like most other things are better than others, but every newspaper in the country is making a valuable contribution, whether you realize it or not.

The people who work for newspapers are your eyes and ears and can be places where decisions are made or things are discussed that you can't possibly be. While we have more graft and corruption in government than we need, just think of how much worse it could be were it not for the "spotlight" newspaper reporters shine on them. Newspapers get accused of running too much negative news, but we can be grateful that what they print is still news. When murder, rape, burglary, scandals, fraud and tragic automobile accidents are so commonplace that it is no longer news, then we will be much worse off as a society than we are now.

By and large, newspaper people provide a valuable service to communities all across this land.

With the exception of when the state press association hands out awards to its members, you won't find these people tooting their own horn.

For this reason, I just wanted to invite you to think about what your newspaper means to the people in your community.

When you have the opportunity, why not let them know you appreciate the good job they do.