Next week, Oct. 4-10, is National Newspaper Week, and the 2020 theme is “America Needs Journalists.”
It’s a fitting theme for so many reasons, but 2020 has proven in countless ways that professional journalists are more necessary than ever before.
In recent years we’ve watched the ranks of journalists dwindle while the selection of digital “news” sources widens. At the same time, our commander in chief has repeatedly called respected journalists “enemies of the people” and routinely called factual news “fake” when it doesn’t fit his version of reality.
America needs journalists more than ever to fulfill their main mission: to seek and report the truth. Social media delivers Americans some credible, vetted journalism, but it’s mixed in with a bewildering flood of personal opinion, propaganda disguised as news, and wacky conspiracy theories. At the same time, prominent cable “news” outlets fill prime time with ideology-driven commentary rather than news reporting.
America needs journalists who are ethically bound to maintain independence and impartiality in their reporting. Journalists’ allegiance is to the truth, regardless of whether the facts they find might be perceived as favoring one cause or hurting another. Journalists are human and sometimes fall short, but independently seeking the truth is our mission.
America needs journalists to hold government accountable, from the local school board to Congress. As the coronavirus spread this spring, journalists across the country dug out information about the responses by local hospitals, county boards of health, state government, Congress and the White House.
Government exists to serve the people, but America needs journalists to navigate the bureaucracy and dig out needed information. We recognize that many citizens can’t or don’t attend school board, city council or county board meetings, but we do. Because that’s where decisions are made that affect our residents and affect our tax dollars.
America needs journalists to unite our communities in sharing common joys and trials of being human, and America needs journalists to tell the stories of ordinary people who do extraordinary things.
America needs more inspirational stories as much as it needs more reporting to keep government accountable.
This year, amid a pandemic, news people — like many other professionals in other fields of work — have faced unprecedented challenges, risking their own health to report on important news and turning their own homes into news rooms to file their stories accurately and on deadline.
America needs journalists, and it is an honor to be that lifeline.