Why I love Newspapers

The Georgia Press Association is beginning a column-writing campaign to bolster the successes and the importance of our newspapers by well-known Georgians and newspaper men and women like you. Please feel free to use these columns in your newspaper to show your community what a great job you and your fellow GPA members are doing. And by all means, if you feel compelled to write a column to share in the effort, please send it to us. If you have any questions, give us a call at 770-454-6776.

Community newspapers: A vital cog in democracy

Charles Davis, Dean, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, UGA

Buried somewhere in my parents’ house in Watkinsville is a stack of aged newspapers – copies of the Athens Banner-Herald, The Oconee Enterprise and the dearly departed Athens Observer. You see, in my family, community newspapers have always been the chroniclers of family lore, of scholastic achievements, of the fleeting fame of youth.

fIn the bottom of that pile, I know, are some of my most prized possessions: stories I wrote as a budding journalist. The first-ever clip, written in the heat of a June night by a novice intern, told the gripping tale of an error-plagued Little League tilt between Athens Federal and Arby’s…or was it Arby’s and Burger King? I can’t recall, but I know that from the moment the Banner-Herald hired me on, life has never been the same.

I spent a couple of summers covering organized baseball in the Athens area 25 years ago, and recall vividly sitting in the newsroom, watching the real journalists doing their jobs, and thinking to myself, perhaps out loud, “That’s the best job in the world…”

It still is a great job, an important job, a job worth doing well. We’ve all followed the news about the news business, watching the drumbeat of layoffs at media companies large and small as the digital era ushers in a wrenching transition. Media managers are being asked to do more with less than ever before, with predictable results.

The somewhat myopic focus on all things digital belies the fact that in communities all over the country, community newspapers are thriving. The reason is simple and timeless: in so many communities the local newspaper remains a viable advertising vehicle and is the only source of verified, professionally presented news and information. Municipal governance, justice and all of the other news that binds a community together still forms the basic covenant between a town and its newspaper, and whether it’s a local economic development story or a development in the public schools, the newspaper provides coverage people need.

It’s quite fashionable these days to be dismissive of the future of the press. Its many critics seem all too eager to write it off as some outdated anachronism of an earlier age. I find that attitude troubling, and more than a little puzzling, perhaps because I know that every day, in communities across the state of Georgia and across the nation, reporters, editors, photographers and designers toil thanklessly to keep us informed. Reporters sit through interminable public meetings, keeping a watchful eye on school boards and city councils, water districts and non-profits. They ask difficult questions of people less than thrilled to answer them, challenge assumptions, scrutinize assertions and shine bright light into dark corners of society.

In so doing, they provide an indispensable service to the democracy, offering its citizens an opportunity to inform themselves about the events of the day in a way that brings them meaning. The glare of the national news media sometimes obscures the fine work done by so many community journalists daily, soldiering on in these trying times, bringing us the news we need to raise our children, strengthen our communities and share our triumphs and our losses.

So let me take a moment to thank the countless journalists out there who aren’t splashed across the cable TV gabfests spewing opinion 24/7, but who instead tell the true stories of America – even if it is a humble Little League game on a warm southern night. Community newspapers remain a rich part of the media diet, and for that, I am thankful.

Charles Davis

Dean, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia

Why newspapers matter to newspaper people

Jim Zachary, Editor, The Valdosta Daily Times

The newspaper belongs to the community.

Your friends and neighbors who work at your local newspaper believe what we do everyday is more than a job. We believe what we do matters. That is why we love what we do and that is why we love newspapers. It is easy to forget when facing the pressures of deadline, or just the daily grind of our jobs and all that comes with that — but it is important that we not forget the reasons why we do what we do. The moment we start thinking of ourselves as just a business, is the very moment we lose our relevancy and our importance to a community.

Sure, as much as it pains the journalist to admit it, newspapers are a business, but if we are to remain viable, we must be much more. Printer’s ink courses through our veins because our profession is more of a calling. At some point, we were called by the First Amendment. We were called by the voices of the disenfranchised. We were called by principles and ethics. We were called to serve taxpayers, workers, small business owners, mothers and fathers, voters and ordinary citizens.

We work every day to give those citizens a voice, to empower them. We hold government accountable because at our very core we believe that Government belongs to the governed and not to the governing. We embrace the rich traditions of newspapers and understand why they matter to a community. We embrace the newspaper’s role as the Fourth Estate. That is why we embrace our role as a public watchdog. We are not the enemy of government — rather we are the champions of citizens — of our community.

We know if newspapers do not stand up for citizens and protect the rights of free speech and the rights of access to government, then no one will. We work in our communities each day to build a culture and incubate an environment where those elected feel accountable to those who elected them. Elected officials should never be surprised or irritated when citizens, or the newspaper, question their judgment, their words or their decisions. Citizens have every right to question everything government does, whether elected officials like it or not.

Newspapers should be the most powerful advocate citizens have and be their open forum for a redress of grievances. Ours is a representative form of government. In fact, it is this distinctive nature of our constitutional republic that distinguishes us as a nation and provides for a more open and free society. It is absolutely impossible to please all the people all the time. That is true, of course, because all people do not always agree on all things. That is why we elect representatives.

The electorate should never be disregarded and citizen input should always be embraced, even when citizens disagree with the governing. It would be irresponsible for the local newspaper to not champion the freedom of expression and to not reflect the views of the public in its coverage and commentary. Any newspaper that represents the interests of the governing, more than the interests of the governed, is not worth the paper it is printed on or the ink that fills its pages. We may not always agree with outspoken citizens or defend what they say, but we should defend with all our might, all our ink and all our paper their right to say it. According to historian Thomas Carlyle, Irish statesman and author Edmund Burke (1729-1797) said, “there were three Estates in Parliament, but in the Reporters Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all,” (Heroes and Hero Worship in History, 1841).

Though in many places reporters have reduced themselves to simply being a mouthpiece for local government, reporting what officials want them to report and hiding what they don’t, a community and a democracy is best served when the newspaper provides a forum for checks and balances as the Fourth Estate of government. Great newspapers, relevant newspapers that are embraced by their communities and consequently profitable, growing newspapers have not forgotten that role and have not abandoned these values. When local government makes decisions about how money is being spent, for example, it is critical those elected officials understand they are not spending their own money. It is critical the local newspaper reminds them. It is the public’s money and citizens have every right to know how their money is being spent.

The newspaper must be the community’s eyes, ears and voice. Elected officials are not merely elected to represent the people who agree with them. They are elected to represent the interests of all citizens and that cannot be done if they do not at least listen to and respect everyone, those with whom they agree and those with whom they disagree.

Newspapers should take the role as the Fourth Estate seriously and vigorously report and comment in ways that hold government in check. After a day of being vilified by some elected official who is displeased with a report or an editorial, the most refreshing words for a journalist come when a citizen stops by just to say, “Thank you for giving us a voice.

Thank you for empowering us. Thank you for telling us the truth.” Newspapers, the good ones, still make a difference in the communities they serve. The bad ones may print pages, post articles and sell advertisements, but they do nothing to champion citizens. Burke also said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” As community newspapers we have the daily, or weekly, opportunity to do something — something that matters.

What we do, if we do it right, matters and will continue to matter day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. As long as people still read, still care about their quality of life and still pay taxes, newspapers that retain their role as the Fourth Estate will remain relevant and will matter to the communities we serve.

Jim Zachary is a newspaper veteran who has championed government transparency.

Jim Zachary

Editor of the Clayton News Daily and the Henry Daily Herald

LOCAL NEWSPAPERS PROVIDE INFORMATION THAT EMPOWERS US

Dick Yarbrough, Syndicated Columnist

I have the privilege of being with a group of newspaper publishers at the Georgia Press Association’s winter gathering in Atlanta this week. It is one of those times I wish my momma and daddy were still around to see the crowd their little boy is hanging out with these days. Momma would be pleased; Daddy would be surprised.

This is a special group of people, as is their work. Newspaper publishers manage a business that is more than a business. Their product is information and in a democracy it is information that keeps us free. There is an old adage that says if I know something and don’t tell you, I have the power. If I tell you, I transfer that power to you. Newspapers transfer power from the powerful to We the People.

Our government – yours and mine – will go to extraordinary lengths to hide information from us; information that we have a right to see because it is our hard-earned tax dollars they are spending. The newspapers are there to see that conducting the public’s business behind closed-doors is the exception and not the rule. If newspapers did not, who would?

Thomas Jefferson said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” Like you and me, Mr. Jefferson did not always agree with what he read in the newspaper but he recognized that the alternative was unthinkable. It still is.

The newspaper business is under siege these days. The future of the industry seems to be in doubt according to some pundits. I don’t share that view even though I can’t say I am optimistic about the big-city papers. Frankly, the big boys have lost credibility with a lot of Americans because, in my opinion, they have lost touch with the common people. They talk at us, not to us.

If you disagree with something you read in the Washington Post, how do you know anyone of any import will (a) see your complaint or (b) give a flip if they do? Not so with the local paper. You likely know the staff at the local paper and probably shop at the same grocery store, belong to the same church or civic club. You don’t like something you read, you can give them instant feedback. I know. I have been known to generate some of that feedback – good and bad.

Your local paper is less concerned with trying to influence your political philosophy and more concerned with keeping you informed. Where else will you read about what the city council or the county commission is up to? The New York Times? I don’t think so.

It is here that you learn what roads are going to be closed and for how long or proposed changes in the millage rate or how your local school system plans to do to deal with the aftermath of the tragedy in Newton, Conn. Add photographs and stories about your friends and neighbors, the high school band and the soccer team and you have the pulse of the community in your hands.

As technologies change, the newspapers are changing with them. That is nothing new. The editors used to handset type. Then they got machines that set the type for them. Now, a lot of stuff is done by computer. And the way you read this information will change as well. A lot of people already read their paper on the Internet.

But what won’t change is that local newspapers will continue to empower you by providing you information that you need and that the powerful would just as soon you not have. That is why I am honored to be asked to speak to the publishers. Without them, it wouldn’t be possible for you and me to have this weekly dialogue. We wouldn’t be able to laugh together at some of the human foibles we witness or fume together at some of the arrogances we experience. And there would be no opportunity to poke fun at the pompous or to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Most of all, there would be no free flow of information allowing us to make decisions that affect the way we live. The newspaper publishers provide that. They give us information and information is power. I am going to thank them when I see them. I hope you will, too.

Dick Yarbrough

Why I Love Newspapers

Donnell Suggs, Sports Reporter, Lake Oconee News

As a small boy, my dream was to become either a professional baseball player or a sports writer for The New York Daily News. I never did get to play pro ball.

I do, however, get to live my dream as the regional sports editor and lead sports reporter for the Lake Oconee News, an award-winning weekly newspaper in Greensboro, Ga. Getting up in the morning, picking the paper up and being able to read about everything (well, almost everything) going on in the world, and, in the case of my local paper, the world around me, has always intrigued me. I would always think to myself, “I want to be part of this world.”

The beauty of a newspaper is that it does not need batteries to operate, a flat screen for you to see it, or buttons or levers for you to control it. It fits in your hands and your back pocket. It’s rarely ever heavy, hot, cold or sharp. It inspires without making a sound. The feel of a newspaper in my hands has always had a magical effect on me. I believe it always will. My byline is in the paper every week. My dream has come true. Those are the reasons I love newspaper

Donnell Suggs

Sports Reporter, Lake Oconee News

Newspapers will never die

Jack Kingston, Former Member, U.S. House of Representatives

I cannot think of a time in my life when newspapers were not present. From my father reading one at the breakfast table or mom referring to an article she read to debates with my sisters over which comic strip was best, they have always been a staple in the Kingston household.

As Athenians we subscribed to the Athens Daily News and the Athens Banner Herald. My parents also liked to read the Atlanta papers and columns of Furman Bisher and Lewis Grizzard. As teenagers we read The Athens Observer.

When I went to work as a shipping agent in Savannah, I would pick up newspapers to read the tide charts and ship arrivals. Libby and I found our first home in the wanted ads of the Savannah Morning News.

In public service, newspapers have become an even larger part of my life. They are a tool to communicate with the people, to get feedback on a recent vote, or pick up an example of government waste to be used in a speech or committee hearing. Newspapers literally transmit the voice of the people to the halls of government.

There is something special about sitting down with a newspaper and feeling the crinkle of the paper between your fingers. As you thumb through the pages, you get more than just newsprint on your hands. You get a sense for what is happening in your community.

When something appears in the newspaper, it is real and it is permanent. Just ask anyone who has had an unflattering photo show up in the town crier.

Each time they are printed, newspapers serve as a record of what we have and have not accomplished in the intervening days since their last issue. They bring us word of what our community has created from school achievements and church happenings to births, birthdays, and the founding of new businesses. They also bring us word of what we have lost like deaths or institutions closed.

While we might miss the notion reading them in real time, I have found some of the most interesting books are compilations of newspaper articles which provide an account of history as it was lived.

Today I read articles from over a dozen newspapers, some hard copy and some digital. I am better informed as a citizen and a legislator as a result.

In today’s world, newspapers offer us a break from the hyper-critical and anonymous world created by the Internet. They give us a chance to stop looking inward and start looking outward. In them we can engage with those people who share in our society in an open and honest setting. At their best, newspapers serve as a “mirror of the world” covering the big issues that impact our everyday lives, the goings on of our neighborhoods, and our favorite sports teams from little league fields all the way to the World Series.

While the form or method of delivery may change, that is why newspapers will always be an indispensible part of our lives. — Congressman Jack Kingston represents the First District of Georgia in the United States House of Representatives.

Jack Kingston

Why I Love Community Newspapers

Larry Walker, University System of Georgia Board of Regents

Most of them are small, although there are two or three larger ones with pictures of my show calves and me. All of them are slightly yellowed and somewhat worn by the weight of many years. But I can still read ’em, and I can still remember.

Then there are accounts of loved ones and their departures after lives well-lived. And, political happenings – victories, accomplishments, positions taken, critical letters to the editor and the like, with the positive being in greater numbers, not necessarily because of preponderance of happenings, but more so to do with what was saved.

Of all these boxes of clippings saved perhaps the most cherished is the one from the Houston Home Journal of about two column inches telling of the June, 1963 departure of four local boys, Bobby Jones, Jerry Horton, Jerry Wilson and Larry Walker, for Ft. Worth Texas and summer work at Texas Steel Company. It’s as if the accounts in this timeless treasure come back to life every time I see and read it.

I must mention three weekly newspapers of particular significance to me: the Sandersville Progress delivered to my Walker Grandparent’s home on dirt Sparta-Davisboro Road in rural Washington County, Macon County’s Citizen Georgian ‘covered me’ when I represented that county in the General Assembly and the one I love, the Houston Home Journal.

Then, there are other community newspapers, outstanding in every respect, that come to mind as examples of the best in community journalism: The Blackshear Times, The Press-Sentinel, Jesup, The Northeast Georgian, Cornelia, and The Clayton Tribune. These papers are the conscience of the community. They report on city and county governments. They help to keep local officials honest and on the right path. And, very importantly, they write the history of the place and people even while it is being made.

Community newspapers are us. They tell our story – the tales of those of us who don’t live in Atlanta or New York or even Macon. It’s the chronicle record of what we do and are and we aspire to be. And, it’s what the world, or this part of it, will know about us when we have long since crossed over the river.

I love our community newspapers. I can’t wait to look at mine (I claim some interest in it) when it comes out on Wednesday and then, again, on Saturday. It’s been that way ever since I was just a boy, ever since I was able to read and understand. And, I remember: editors like Cooper Etheridge, Bobby Branch, and Foy Evans, printers like Byron Maxwell, writers like Charlotte Moore (“Porky”, we miss you) and owners like Danny and Julie Evans. Thanks to all of you for enriching my life and making it more enjoyable. And, thanks for making a record, a permanent record, of my little accomplishments in my little part of the world. And, the accomplishments of friends and family.

“Newspapers are in financial trouble.” But, not ‘ours.’ Not the ones that are close to its readers and know what is really important to its readers – you know things like, a huge tomato, twin calves, a fifty pound watermelon grown by Mr. Gray, the cat caught in the wheel well of the Mayor’s car, Mr. William Jones seeing what he believed to be a black panther out on Salem Church Road and the squirrel that interrupted the morning service at the First Baptist Church. What fun. What memories. I love community newspapers.

Larry Walker has practiced law for 48 years in his hometown of Perry. He served in the General Assembly for 32 years, and now is a member of the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents. His column appears weekly in the Houston Home Journal.

Larry Walker

University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents

I’m rich in many different ways

Ashley Biles, Associate Editor, The Thomaston Times

Over the last four years of working at the paper, there have been several days when my job has been less than desirable. I have stood in the freezing rain to cover an event, been nearly hit by cars while taking photos of ribbon cuttings and sat through many long meetings. I have lost countless hours of sleep from working until after midnight to finish a story when on deadline, only to be up before dawn the next day to cover a breakfast meeting, and having a weekend completely off has become a luxury, not a definite thing because the news never stops.

However, even on the worst days, I always thought that I fared better than many other professions. Evidently I was wrong, because newspaper reporter has been listed as the number one worst job in the nation for 2013 by Careercast.com, beating out lumberjack, enlisted military personnel, actors and oil rig workers in the top five.

The website attributes the low pay, long hours and high stress as reasons the profession has become so unattractive and frankly, I can agree that those are things I think of when wondering why I chose this as a career. But what the article doesn’t mention is there are many aspects that make this job great and most importantly, one that I enjoy doing. There is nothing quite like seeing the smile on a child’s face when they realize their picture is going to be in the newspaper or hearing how proud a parent is when they submit a photo of their child’s college graduation. It is the little things like that which make me happy to do what I do.

One of the greatest joys of my job is getting to meet people and tell the stories of their lives. Sometimes the stories are of an accomplishment, sometimes they are about a need a particular person has and others times they are just an interesting tidbit about an aspect of someone’s life; but no matter what the topic of the article, I always enjoy being given the chance to share them with others.

In addition, there has not been a single feature story I have written that did not touch my life in some way. Through those interviews I have learned about the selflessness of a child whose only wish for her birthday was to provide shoes to children that could not afford their own. I have learned of the struggles a family faces when a loved one is fighting a terrible disease and the excitement a veteran feels when he learns there is a mountain in Antarctica named for him. I have laughed and cried with these people and always walk away grateful they welcomed me into their lives for a short while.

My job also affords me the opportunity to meet new people on a daily basis and I have often found people who were once strangers have soon become new friends. One meeting in particular has given me a pen pal who is 96-years-old and lives in Virginia. Mrs. Florine Watson Harper began sending letters to the paper in 2009 with “Recollections” of growing up in Thomaston. She wrote more than 50 articles of days gone by which we ran in The Times and although it has been more than two years since we ran her last one, I have been able to keep in touch with her through letters and phone calls. In a time when the most mail I get is bills that need to be paid, it never fails to bring a smile to my face when I realize there is a letter from Mrs. Florine mixed into the stack. We have only met in person once, but through our conversations I feel like I have known her forever and have gained a wonderful friend.

It would be easy to focus on the negative aspects of working at a newspaper and agree with the survey that I have the worst job in the nation, but I chose to focus on the flip side. Sure the hours are long, my stress levels often run high and I am by no means monetarily wealthy, but this job has made me rich in many other ways. So, would I say I have the worst job in the nation? Definitely not, and that is thanks to each of you. Ashley Biles is the Associate Editor at The Thomaston Times in Thomaston, Georgia.

Ashley Biles

Associate Editor, The Thomaston Times

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson

I don’t know what I would do on Sunday mornings without my morning ritual of walking to the end of my driveway, picking up my copy of the Marietta Daily Journal and taking it inside to my favorite chair to read it front to back with my cup of coffee.

The newspaper has been part of my life for almost 50 years. I rely on my community newspaper because it has its finger on the pulse. For anyone who is in public life, community newspapers are absolutely essential.

My staff and I scour the community newspapers of Georgia first thing each day to ensure that I’m up-to-date on the latest news so that I can do my job effectively. Community newspapers also are crucial in helping me get my message out to Georgians so that I can hear back directly from them and continue to serve them effectively.

I have saved hundreds of newspaper clippings throughout my career. I recently sorted through boxes and boxes of these clips in preparing to send materials to the archives at the University of Georgia, my alma mater, and it was a wonderful walk down memory lane.

For local merchants, placing an ad in a community newspaper is an invaluable tool. As a businessman in the real estate industry for many years, I always relied heavily on newspaper advertising to promote the houses my agents were hired to sell.

Our newspapers give our communities an identity. Newspapers serve as a mechanism for people to speak out on local issues that affect them, their families and their businesses. Many would have no voice for dialogue, debate and commerce without them. Newspapers encourage community involvement and serve as a record for where we’ve come from, where we’re headed, and who we aspire to be.

I appreciate our community newspapers and their ability to survive and thrive throughout changes to our state, to our big cities and small towns, and changes in technology. This column is a way to say “thank you” to all the newspapers across the state, in addition to the Marietta Daily Journal and the other community newspaper to which I subscribe, The Clayton Tribune. Your contributions to my daily life are worth far more than the newsstand price.

Johnny Isakson

United States Senator

You Can Let us Be ‘Your Newspaper’

Bob Tribble, owner, Trib Publications Inc.

National Newspaper Week will be observed next week and this column will be about things the free press should do in order to serve the communities our weekly newspapers are published in. After more than fifty-three years in the newspaper business I have learned that there are three guaranteed ways to avoid criticism. First, you can say nothing. Second, you can do nothing. And third, you can be nothing. Those of you who have been a reader of our newspapers and this column during those years know that we do not subscribe to the above. We believe that if there are things you need to know we should tell you and often times we are criticized for that. But, it is our job and you expect that from “your newspaper.”

My wife of fifty-seven years would tell you that I am often wrong but never in doubt. Right or wrong I have no doubt that it is our job to keep you informed about your governments, your schools, your community and many other areas of happenings that you need to know about. Should we no longer do that we would not be worthy of you calling us “your newspaper.”

The mission statement in our newspapers says: “Our goal is to produce a quality, profitable, community oriented newspaper that you our readers are proud of. We will reach that goal through hard work, teamwork, loyalty and a strong dedication towards printing the truth.” By reaching our goal we will be worthy of you calling us “your newspaper.” Strong newspapers build strong communities and newspapers that take a stand for what is good for their communities and take a firm stand against what is bad for their communities certainly help to build strong communities. You can rest assured that no other media cares more about your community than “your newspaper.”

“Your newspaper” reports history on a weekly basis in your community. Not only do we print the big news that happens but the small news as well. Things like community columns, births, honor rolls, engagements, weddings, anniversaries, obituaries and other news at no cost. We center our efforts on local news that you cannot get anywhere else because we feel this is what you want in “your newspaper.” “Your newspaper” will never forget that we are the guardians of the First Amendment which protects the rights of those with whom we disagree as well as those with whom we agree.

Our editorial pages are a place for locally written editorials, letters to the editor, personal columns and occasional editorial cartoons. It is a place for you and us to sometimes vent our frustrations and where everyone’s opinions are welcomed. Matthew Arnold once wrote, “America is the chosen home of newspapers.” Thomas Wolfe once said, “Americans love their newspapers.” Benjamin Franklin said, “I had rather live in a country with no government and a free press than to live in a country with a government but no free press.” Yes, America is still the chosen home of newspapers, most folks do love “their newspapers” and there is no doubt but that a strong free press is vital to our communities and to our nation as well.

Over the years we have faced some trying times for printing what we believe the people had a right to know. We have been sued, threatened with suits, cussed at and some of us have had our lives threatened. But we have survived those attacks and they have never stopped us from printing the truth and what the people have the right to know. We want you to let us continue to be “your newspaper” in the years to come and you need to know that your community newspaper will be there for you in the future bringing you news about your community that no other media will provide for you.

Bob Tribble

THE ORIGINAL SOCIAL MEDIA

John Hewitt, General Manager, The Champion, Decatur

Almost everyone is active in some sort of social media these days; whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Flicker, Pinterest or any of the many other sites.

We use social media as a way to stay in touch with family and friends; share photographs; keep up with news; look for jobs; announce engagements, births, marriages, deaths and other life events; and virtually anything else that is part of our collective lives.

Today’s social media role, other than the instant nature of it, is no different than the roles community newspapers have played for hundreds of years.

In smaller communities, prior to the days of the Internet, the local newspaper was often the only form of communication other than word of mouth.

The local newspaper was the go-to source for political news, sports scores, obituaries, school lunch menus, church news, items for sale at the local markets, and even, as was the case in my hometown, hyper-local community news.

Our community newspaper featured contributing writers from the various communities who would report on such things as who visited whom, who hosted a party and possibly even what a family or group would have for Sunday dinner (dinner was the term used to described the midday meal, particularly on Saturdays and Sundays).

Sunday dinner was usually the biggest meal of the week and family and friends would often drop by after church to socialize. It was often an all-afternoon event with foods left out for hours so that whoever visited needed only to fill their plates, and this was newsworthy.

I think the first time I appeared in our local newspaper was my graduation from elementary school, which at the time was completing the seventh grade. I was so proud to have my picture in the newspaper, and I’m sure my mother bought additional copies to share with family members. My older siblings had often been featured in the newspaper for either academic or sporting accomplishments but not me. For the first time in my life, my name and likeness was shared with people that I didn’t know, and I thought it was awesome.

My sisters would often make scrapbooks; these scrapbooks always contained clippings from the local newspaper. Clippings of photos and stories about their school, their friends, craft ideas that they wanted to try, recipes, hairstyles they liked, boys they swooned over…you know; the sort of things high school girls now post on Pinterest and share on Instagram. Family albums would almost certainly have clippings from the newspaper that showed a family member or neighbor.

Things really haven’t changed that much over the years. We still like to share the important things in our lives with others. We still like to see our pictures in public view (assuming nothing illegal has transpired). We still like to know what’s going on with others. We just do it differently now.

Your local newspaper was the first medium to serve this purpose and will be for years to come. We often have people come into our office asking for back issues that friends or family members were featured in. They still want that dingy piece of newsprint and it often gets framed. Sure they will also request a PDF of a page so they can share it on electronic social media but that PDF can’t be pasted into a scrapbook.

Support your local newspaper, we’ve always been a vital link to the community and we always will be. Newspapers have withstood the test of time. As other forms of communication have come and gone, we’ve survived and no parental controls are required. We are the original social media

JohnHewitt

Human Nature Is On Newspaper’s Side

Leonard Woolsey, Publisher, The Galveston County Daily News

Funny thing happened the other day to our local newspaper on the way to obscurity – my teenage daughter asked for a printed copy.

While the world media might be quick to put a fork in the printed media and declare them done, there just might be something lurking out there we canʼt fully appreciate.

Recently my daughter went to a small concert in our community. Knowing our newspaper wouldnʼt be staffing the event I suggested she might see about getting art and a cutline for us to publish. Armed with two friends and a cell phone, she left for the show.

The next morning I got up and found the photo emailed to me. Sitting down I quickly posted it to our newspaper website and shared the link to her Facebook account. Within minutes people recognized the drummer as a former child television star and her post became viral with her friends.

But then something odd happened.

“Think you can bring home copies of the paper for me and my friends?” To be honest, I was stunned. Here was a child of the digital generation needing a physical copy of a newspaper to validate something she experienced.

Suddenly, the digital version was second-rate when it came down to the ʻtouchingʼ the experience. Although I admit this is an unscientific piece of data, I do believe it helps to reinforce how we as humans instinctively harbor the need to touch the important things in our lives. While society races to embrace a digital world of communication, there is still something instinctive inside of us driving us to validate something with the tips of our fingers. Much like our urges to reach out touch someone we see in pain or high-five a stranger sitting next to us at a high school football game, the sense of touch is an instinctive and deeply personal emotional impulse hardwired in our human nature.

I realize each of us is awash in the noise of the digital explosion – a world where information can be published (or erased) with the simple act of a few keystrokes. Everything is instantaneous, yet somewhat impermanent. And our screens, much like our attention spans, refresh and change within minutes.

And then there is the printed newspaper: permanent in its final form and faithfully marking time and the world around it at the moment. And believe it or not, this means something to our individual psyche. So even in todayʼs world, our printed newspaper carries a ʻsecret sauceʼ embedded like no other medium– an emotional connection driven by human nature.

And this instinct, fortunately, is not generational exclusive as I recently discovered. And for me, a veteran of the printed world of business for decades, it was nice to relearn this lesson through the eyes of a member of the digital generation.

Leonard Woolsey

Publisher, Times-Georgian in Carrollton and Douglas County Sentinel, Douglasville.