From the editor: Why journalism matters
Imagine for a moment the absence of journalists. There is no more checking the news on your smartphone or tablet. No more visiting the website of your favorite media outlet. Gone are the newspapers, the television broadcasts, the radio shows. No more news.
It’s a terrifying thought that one day you could wake up and no longer be able to find out what’s going on globally or even locally. How would the everyday person get the facts to be an informed citizen?
That day is one that journalists fear, more and more, could be possible. So it is our job, as journalists, to prevent that from ever becoming reality.
Though it’s not as easy anymore when the leader of the nation unfoundedly attacks journalists, the credibility of trusted news sources and makes a mockery of the pursuit of truth. He labels factual stories that he doesn’t want to hear or believe as “fake news.” But he doesn’t label actual false or misleading news with this term.
Especially with the rise of citizen journalism, everyone now basically equipped with an Internet connection, video camera, a platform via social media and — something that hasn’t changed — widespread opinions that run the gamut, it’s easier now than ever for the dissemination of actual fake news.
That’s what we reporters and editors have to face on a daily basis: we do our best to compete against people and organizations that take opinions as absolute fact, spread misinformation and gossip and often play fast and loose with actual facts, accepting only the ones that suit themselves or their ideologies. Proper journalists, on the other hand, are meant to provide the whole picture, both sides in equal light, and maintain an adherence to facts and accuracy.
At Sky-Hi News, we are professionally trained and experienced journalists who understand our ethical responsibilities to our public. We know what goes into telling a balanced and fair story — and for that is what all true journalists strive.
This week, April 16 through April 22, marks Colorado Journalism Week. It’s a week meant to celebrate and honor the work and ideals of Colorado’s working press. It’s also a time to reflect on the hardships facing our industry and how we can persevere to continue doing what we do best: telling stories.
Our role in the world is to inform citizens of what’s happening around them. If we didn’t have enterprising journalists to uncover wrongdoings of multinational corporations or unscrupulous politicians, who would? Perhaps a citizen isn’t as engaged as much as they’d like in his or her community, but still wanted to know what happened at the last city meeting. Perhaps there’s a tax hike coming. That’s just one important place where journalists are needed. But it could also be as simple as somebody wanting to know about the events coming up for the weekend or who won the latest high school football game. Journalists are needed to deliver news to a public that deserves fact-based information, no matter in what size or scope.
We as journalists are also there to tell the stories of everyday people and to write stories that have the power to affect change in our communities.
When I think of how powerful journalism truly is, I think of a specific story I wrote several years ago back in my home state of Michigan.
I was editor of a relatively small weekly newspaper in northern Lower Michigan, an area known for its beautiful yet humid summers and tough winters.
An unprecedented overnight storm at the end of March dumped several feet of snow, something not many were expecting. Roads were closed, schools were canceled, electricity was out and most people opted into staying indoors. A state of emergency was declared for our county.
As I dug myself out that morning to head to the office, I noticed a small group of people across the large field from my home. They were huddled together and not all of them were wearing winter coats despite the below-freezing temperature. It got me thinking: Did our county have places for the homeless, especially somewhere to go in this terrible weather? None came to mind.
I headed to the office and immediately got on the phone with some of the local leaders. A bit later I discovered there was no specific place designated to shelter homeless people in the case of emergencies such as this huge blizzard. It was certainly a surprise considering winters there were known to be brutal.
So I started writing.
Some time the following day, after the paper had been published, I received a call from my county’s emergency manager requesting a meeting with myself and the county’s board of commissioners. They had all read my story.
I attended that meeting wherein they discussed my story and I walked out feeling I had accomplished something through my writing and reporting. The commissioners announced they would work to have a plan in place for the homeless of the county — albeit there were few — within the next two weeks. Those two weeks passed and a clear, appropriate plan was unanimously approved and adopted.
That story went on to win me my first award from the Michigan Press Association.
True journalism is not only about relaying information or highlighting what’s happening, it’s also about creating positive change whenever possible and ensuring people are held accountable. That’s why journalism should be celebrated and that’s why it should be protected.
Bryce Martin is the editor of Sky-Hi News.
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