At Hale County Commission meeting
Commissioners hear citizen comments and concerns
At Greensboro City Council meeting
Budget hearings set; council hears hotel pitch
Students, admin and visitors on UA quad before the Aug. 21st partial solar eclipse in Tuscaloosa. Video by Tommy McGraw, MVT Publisher
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Your local newspaper: The real deal
By Jim Zachary
While no one should ever say “I know it’s real because I saw it on the internet,” everyone should be able to say, “I know it’s real. I read it in the newspaper.”
Real newspapers reporting real news have never been more important or more valuable to readers and communities.
This week, newspapers across the nation recognize National Newspaper Week and the theme — Real Newspapers…Real News — points to the importance of accurate reporting, watchdog journalism, strong editorials, comprehensive public notices and a free, open public forum that can be easily accessed by readers in more ways than ever before.
In print, on digital sites, via laptop, desktop and mobile devices, through SMS or social media, newspapers across the nation continue to be the leading source of reliable information in all the communities they serve.
In a world of fake news spread on social media and attacks on the media from people in power, it is important for the public to know the difference between legitimate reporting by credible sources and all the noise posing as “the media.”
Here are some of the reasons your local newspaper is the most trustworthy source for news and information:
— Newspaper newsrooms are staffed with real people — people you know — reporters, photographers, editors — gathering the news, conducting interviews, covering meetings, attending events, writing, editing, fact-checking and making sure every day you can trust what you read.
— Newspapers rely on recognizable sources. Quotes in the articles you read are attributed to real people and can be easily verified.
— Newspapers work hard to stay away from single source reporting, giving readers context and balance.
— Newspaper websites have legitimate URLs ending in .com or .org extensions, listing contact information, the names of staff members and the media organization’s leadership team on the website.
— Newspapers correct mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes at times, but there is a big difference between an error and intentionally and knowingly publishing a false report because of some political or social agenda. Spurious websites, blogs and social media do not correct errors. They thrive on them.
In the United States newspapers have a long and important legacy of holding the powerful accountable, defending the First Amendment and advocating for government transparency.
Democracy is protected when the newspaper provides checks and balances as the Fourth Estate of government from city hall to the courthouse to the statehouse to the White House.
Newspapers are committed to the neighborhoods, cities, counties, states and coverage areas they serve.
Straightforward news reporting and thought-provoking commentary give a voice to the voiceless and empower the powerless. Newspapers hold government accountable because at our very core we believe that government belongs to the governed and not to the governing.
Don’t be embarrassed because you shared some sensational, agenda-driven report on social media only to find out it is totally fake. Get your news where real news has always been found: Your local newspaper, the real deal.
Jim Zachary, CNHI Regional Editor for Georgia and Florida newspapers, is the president and chairman of the Red & Black Publishing Co., serving the University of Georgia, director of the Transparency Project of Georgia, open government trainer and member of the board of directors of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation and a member of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications Board of Trust.
Power of the press is in being the Way to Know for news consumers
By Gene Policinski
WASHINGTON – The power of the press rests in the ability of journalists to hold government accountable, to mobilize public opinion on matters that are important to individuals, communities or the nation, and to provide necessary information of value.
Notice in those words not a mention of celebrity content, mobile devices nor “aspirational” reportage that feels good without doing any good.
But also notice in those words the key to the future for newsrooms across the nation: A visible role in the daily life of the nation rooted in real benefit and sustained credibility.
Newsprint may not be the medium-of-choice today for many readers, and perhaps certainly not the one for the desired next generation of readers. But the news organizations behind what certainly will be a blend of printed and electronic pages must be again the mediums-of-choice for that group, whether they be thought-leaders in society, officeholders in government or voters.
The nation – our audience – needs facts, presented clearly, accurately and completely. For those who are help rapt by the comings and goings of the Kardashians and turn away from discussion of policy in the Keystone Pipeline System debate: Well, perhaps it’s time to say “goodbye” and leave them to vacuous talking heads, unreal “reality” shows and the assortment of cable TV geek-fests that offer a chance to feel superior just by sitting on a sofa.
“Targeted circulation” indeed. Let’s leave behind the prideful ignorant who proclaim little faith and demonstrate even less actual consumption of news, and target those readers and users who want news and data and informed decisions – and who will pay a reasonable fee to get it.
Ok, not as easy to gather in and report out as feature items and single-interview chats. It means bucking the system to place journalists in seats where daily decisions are made and social issues discussed – from City Hall to church pews. It means bringing the news of the day in new ways, but with the same old standards that separated opinion from fact, news pages from editorials and commentary from reporting.
The Newseum Institute’s latest State of the First Amendment national survey, published on July 4, showed that 70% of respondents disagreed with the statement that “overall, the news media tries to report the news without bias.”
To be sure, the change of bias has been leveled at journalists since the nation began – and was, in fact, welcomed by many in the first “journals of opinion” and later by media moguls making no pretence at publishing anything but “news” filtered through their own views.
But over time, and by dint of the hard work and credible reporting by tens of thousands of journalists – in newspapers, and later in radio, television and now online – readers, listeners, views and users gave their loyalty to news operations that brought them what they needed.
As emotional as one can be when waxing about ink-on-newsprint, it was the information that was printed with that ink, on those pages, that made newspapers strong and powerful – and that information was the stuff – not the fluff – of life.
Of course there is room for entertaining, uplifting stories and reports on that part of the day that makes us chuckle, smile or simply shake a head. But editorial decisions ought not to start and end there. “Click-bait” ought not to squeeze out real debate. “Metrics” ought not to rule over meaning. And the challenge in thorough reporting on the county’s budget next year ought to mean finding a new way – perhaps through the new studies of gaming technology as applied to news reporting – of telling a complex story. Decades ago, USA TODAY showed us how color weather maps and national sports rankings could be fun while still bringing needed information to commuters, gardeners and golfers – and while also reporting on AIDS, national security issues and unsafe military vehicles.
Consider that most news today still originates with mainstream media – and that the value for those aggregators was simply in finding a new way to package and deliver the content. A simple text-and-photo site called Craig’s List wreaked havoc on the financial underpinnings of a massive industry just by finding an easier way to post and peruse the same information. Cannot we collectively continue to find such innovation within newsrooms as well?
Journalists have learned many hard lessons over the last two decades: Nobody really loved us because of our nameplates, innovation was not just a good idea but a daily consideration on survival, and we no longer are the gatekeepers anymore between news makers and news consumers.
But in those tough, even brutal, decades, we’ve also discovered how to make our pages come alive – literally, via the Web – and found new ways to know about and be in contact with those interested in news and information. To the old axiom about being “Clear, concise and accurate” those who have survived have added “responsive.”
The power of the press was, is now, and will be in the future, bringing consumers the news they need – and having the fortitude to seek and report the news they don’t even yet know they need, but will.
Ignorance and apathy is the challenge. Credibility and necessity are the means to overcome those challenges.
Gene Policinski is chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute and of the Institute’s First Amendment Center. A veteran multimedia journalist, he also writes, lectures and is interviewed regularly on First Amendment issues.