No media company is immune to profit-driven decisions regarding staffing – no business is, in reality. Last week, Berkshire Hathaway, which owns several newspapers across the country eliminated nearly 250 positions at newspapers in 10 states. Some of those eliminations were direct causes of job losses, while other positions were vacant.
For years we have continued to hear the refrain “newspapers are dying.” Yet, in small markets like Chadron, that has never been the reality. While it’s more difficult to penetrate the noise of 24/7 talking heads on cable, the constant stream of Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat posts and blogs tailored to your specific interests and beliefs, community newspapers like The Chadron Record are just as important as ever.
Facebook and Snapchat aren’t keeping tabs on your local city council, school board, county commissioners and criminal courts. Bloggers in some far-away place aren’t telling the stories about your neighbors’ unique quilts or the local Rotary Club’s donation to a youth organization in town. CNN, Fox and MSNBC aren’t broadcasting from Chadron when a wildland fire breaks out. USA Today isn’t providing newspapers to Chadron’s high school government classes so they can be informed on local current events.
But The Chadron Record does all of that and more. We live and work here every day, rooting for our local students as they compete in the classroom, on the athletic field, or on the stage. Our staff visits area classrooms and speaks to students about journalism and the First Amendment. We sit through city council meetings and court appearances. We attend school board meetings and workshops. That’s all in an effort to keep the community informed and serve as a watchdog to local government. We try our best to be at everything, though we know we miss out on some of it. In those instances, we always welcome reader-submitted content.
All of us depend on a free press and healthy journalism. In addition to the “dying” talk of the last several years, media has been labeled as “fake” at just about every turn of late. That’s not really a new accusation – Hitler used a similar phrase during World War II, and during WWI, censorship of news about the war was common. The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 and the Sedition Act of 1918 were both aimed at suppressing free speech and press.
There are biased sources out there, and there are people out there who do flat out lie about what is going on. They are not journalists. Journalists do their best to verify sources and facts, and when mistakes are made, they correct them and apologize. If the mistake is bad enough, they lose their jobs.
Because we as journalists tend to be at more community events than many other citizens, we form opinions about the best direction for our communities. Opinion and analysis has its place in journalism, but these days it’s hard to tell the difference between news and opinion if all you are doing is watching cable “news” shows or scanning headlines on Facebook, many of which are generated by bots. In the newspaper, our opinion is clearly labeled as such and printed in the same spot each week.
Newspapers, especially on the local level, remain as important as ever. Technology has advanced the way we can provide the news to you: We are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, providing brief updates on stories and fun contests for our readers. We still publish our traditional printed edition, and much of our content is available online at www.thechadronnews.com (yes, there’s a paywall after you reach a certain limit). An online subscription also allows readers access to our e-edition.
No, our online version isn’t free – it’s a complaint I hear every once in awhile. Neither is our printed version. A free press isn’t free – we depend on advertisers and subscribers, be they print or digital – to hire professionals to be everywhere and do all those things I described above. So if you are a subscriber or advertiser, thank you for your continued support. If you aren’t, but you value a free press and an informed electorate, stop in or give us a call to learn more.