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Opinion: Providing real, local journalism isn’t easy

by | Oct 9, 2019 | Opinion

This week, October 6 – 12, 2019, marks National Newspaper Week, which, in my view, is a celebration of the First Amendment.

This week is a confirmation of our freedom of speech, our right to a free press, our right to peaceably assemble and our right to petition the government to hear our complaints without fear of a reprisal.

In other words, it’s a big deal!

Even before the digital age of information, most have taken for granted that they can say what they want, when they want and where they want. It’s not uncommon for this what, when, where to be in need of fact checking. However, fact checking is not the topic of this column.

This column is about newspaper reporters who make a free press work.

Reporters provide stories to readers through a process of gathering information. A process founded on sound journalism, factual information and accountability.

As a newspaper publisher who always strives for accuracy, I’d like to get one thing out of the way.

Newspaper reporters are not perfect. The pressure to meet deadline creates a Pandora’s box of potential pitfalls.

That aside, I’d like to explain to the reader what our reporters go through on a weekly, if not daily, basis to provide you accurate, unbiased information.

Our local reporters cover countless city council and school board meetings and our sports reporters cover an unlimited schedule of sporting events.

Any community event, large or small, can be assigned as a story. And not only is an accurate account of the event required, it has to be written in a way that answers the reader’s questions.

A reporter is expected to be a mind-reader, knowing without being told when something is going to happen.

A reporter is also expected to be an expert on all things. Otherwise, how can you expect a story that makes sense?

A reporter is expected to be a good photographer. After all, we can’t run a story without pictures, names included.

It’s usually a good idea if a newspaper reporter is calm by nature and owns clothing with a Teflon coating. It helps the aging process.

Of course, most assignments that turn into stories do not happen between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thus, we ask our reporters to give up their nights and weekends on a regular basis.

While a reporter loves positive feedback about a story, that seldom happens. Complaints are the norm. Criticism about poor coverage, missed information, or missing a story idea completely is commonplace. 

For our newspapers, a reporter’s audience represents thousands of readers. Thus, by filing a story, a reporter acknowledges he or she is willing to take both the good and the bad that comes out of someone reading their copy.

And, last time I checked, the pay doesn’t rank in the top percentiles of professions.

In spite of all of these challenges, most often a newspaper reporter doesn’t view their work as a job.

I know a lot of reporters who view their job as a calling. They see their work as making a difference in their community.

We recently lost a longtime reporter to a promotion at an East Texas daily newspaper. After over a decade serving communities in Collin County, it’s a well-deserved next step in her career.

And although the reporter experienced all of the above during her time with us, she received something I consider priceless.

Before leaving for her new assignment, two different city councils passed proclamations naming a day after her in recognition of her work.

It was a ‘wow’ moment and I appreciate that fact that these two communities recognized the commitment of this reporter.

During this year’s National Newspaper Week, I have just a couple of requests of you as a reader. They may not be ‘wow’ moments, but nevertheless important.

First, next time you see one of our reporters, thank them for serving their community. They’ll appreciate the thought. And second, don’t forget to renew your subscription, or subscribe if you aren’t doing so already.

The cost of your subscription is a small price to pay to keep your news real and local.

Happy National Newspaper Week!

For more like this, see the Oct. 9 issue or subscribe online.

By Chad Engbrock, Publisher • [email protected]

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