“If you want friends or money, newspapering ain’t for you.” — Kathleen Parker, nationally syndicated columnist, in an early 2009 column.
WITH THE proliferation of computers and the World Wide Web, just about anyone can be a “columnist.” The appropriate web name, however, is “blogger.”
Twenty percent of the world population (about seven billion people) have the capability to get on the web, therefore there is the potential for as many bloggers.
Call me old-fashioned or stubborn (my 94-year-old mother would say “hard-headed”), but there’s still something in print that is more real and believable to me.
Which sounds more dignified — blogger or columnist? Blog has some resemblance to another “B” term — B.S., a form of waste. Oh, well, as Ms. Parker wrote, “If you want friends. . . ”
I HAVE long maintained that newspaper people in smaller towns have to be more thoughtful about what they print and how they phrase it than the metropolitan papers. In smaller towns, you probably know most of the people you’re going to write about and will see them at the grocery store, at church and at civic functions. Still, small- town newspapers must be accurate and print the news.
There is a similar distinction between the big networks and the small stations in broadcast media.
We’re told an expanded Internet presence is necessary to survive in this technologically changing and challenging world and that ultimately there will be nothing printed on paper—newspapers, magazines, bulletins, et al.
But, back to this discussion of “real and believable.”
OFTEN, newspapers are accused of “making headlines JUST to sell” the product. The pure truth of that matter is what journalists are taught in school: “Choose your strongest, most interesting story for the top of the page and write a headline that will draw the reader into that story and, thus, the rest of the page. And, get it right.”
Sounds simple. It isn’t.
A large segment of society holds journalists in low esteem, even (gasp!) below politicians and lawyers. Unfortunately, like almost any profession, we have some bad practitioners. However, most are nice people and good at what they do.
Publishers and editors of good newspapers will not tolerate biased reporting or writing of news. Yes, Virginia, there are opinion pages, labeled in some manner to reflect that the statements on the page(s) are the opinions of the writer and not necessarily the newspaper. A newspaper’s official opinion or stance on a given issue is in an editorial, written by someone in management or at the direction of management. Anything else on the opinion page(s) is the opinion of the individual writer and/or the organization he represents. This column is my opinion and this newspaper offers it as such.
News stories may contain opinion, but it will be that of someone in the news and the opinion will be a direct quote and/or attributed to the person, business or institution making the statement.
Many very good newspapers incur the anger of folks because the papers are doing their job of reporting events and happenings factually, bad and good news. Even the most straightforward stories can anger people and cause animosity toward newspapers. Something akin to kill the messenger. . .
Do newspapers sometimes get things wrong? Yes. Publishers, editors and reporters are human and subject to the same failings as you and I. But, they expose corruption and wrongdoing, particularly among those given public trust, sometimes even within the media.
NEWSPAPERS are especially focused on covering government at just about every level because no other entities have the potential to affect our daily lives, and well-being, more than government.
We in the newspaper industry understand that we need thick skins and that we need determination to (1) get all the facts, and to (2) report the news to you in ways that will ultimately be for your well-being. . .
. . .even if it costs us friends and money.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.