There is an elephant in every room where a journalist and a non-journalist are present. The person who is not a part of the media is suspicious; they feel as though the reporter cannot be trusted. I cannot say I blame people entirely for this feeling. At their worst journalists have the capacity to be vultures.
In recent years bias and misinformation has run rampant. This is due to a number of things. The pressures of a 24-hour news cycle make the thirst for new information nearly unquenchable. Reporters have to update stories quickly and constantly, and occasionally this can lead to inaccurate reports. Citizen journalism made popular with the rise of social media has also thrown journalist off their game. It is both a wonderful and terrible thing that anyone with access to a smart phone can report on the world around them. Giving a voice to all is a great thing, however often times the story gets jumbled with so many voices telling the same story.
Like the game of telephone you played as a child, the message is usually very different from how it began by the time it reaches the last person. Typically the last person is the credentialed reporter relaying information to the public. Don’t get me wrong, there have been times, though rare, when journalist show bias or misreport facts entirely to bolster their own career. However, this is simply not the kind of behavior you see from community journalists.
Last week my reporter and I attended a Virginia Press Association event where community journalists from all over the state gathered together in the hope of improving ourselves. There were speakers on all sorts of topics, from newspaper design to interview etiquette. Yet no matter what we were discussing this topic continued to come up. The topic of how much journalism has changed and how difficult it can be to get some members of our community to trust us.
All we can really do to dispel this belief is continue to do good work that is accurate and non-biased. Other than our good work I thought maybe this editorial could help a little in showing that small town newspapers are not the enemy.
My team for both the Herald Progress and the Caroline Progress are small, one reporter is assigned for each paper; we share the duties of writing. We are not CNN, FOX, or NBC. The stories my reporters and I write are without bias. We like when we get to tell the community good news. When we have to write about less than happy topics we do not enjoy it, but we know that the community has a right to know.
Editorials are meant to be opinion-based and I do share my viewpoints with you on different news stories each week. Those viewpoints are kept completely separate when It comes to assigning or writing stories.
Small, local newspapers don’t have many advantages over larger news operations. Large organizations have more manpower, more money, and more resources. What we do have is less of an ego and more of a drive to bring you the truth. National news is important, but local history is found on the pages of local papers. You can trust your local journalists to preserve your history.