By C.L. Harmon
“STATEHOOD!” “U.S. AND JAPS AT WAR”, “PRESIDENT SLAIN”, “MAN WALKS ON MOON,” “U.S. DROPS ATOMIC BOMB ON JAPAN.” These words and so many others describe the events we remember, the ones we hold close within our life time. These are the words we can put in a scrap book or frame as picture. They are the written voice that has spoken to people for 500 hundred years; they are the newspapers. Newspapers are the medium where small town crime, sports and civic events to major national headlines become real to us. There’s a finality to print that causes us both anxiety and pride depending upon that which is printed and to whom it is about. In many ways they are ancient-style writings on a modern-type stone published for all the world to witness…for all the world to know. The same concept of cave drawings has been brought to modern presses for the same purpose—to inform people as to what is happening. We know that a spot on the evening news or a mention on the radio will fade as days pass but ink has a way of staining and chisels have always made an impression. We know that a name or happening in a newspaper will always be in black and white and someone from grandma and her refrigerator magnet to scholars and their archives will be able to appreciate it. There will be those who read and cut out specific articles and pictures and save them for sentimental reasons as well as those who read and save the entire paper because the events within a particular edition had a profound effect on their lives. But mostly, there will be those who read because they believe they have a right to know what is happening in their community, state and country. Above all else, newspapers have one main objective—to inform. Whether that be who caught the biggest fish in the local fishing tournament to who was arrested and charged with a crime, the American way has always been for the people to be informed. Good or bad, people should know; a concept very well understood by the founders of this country. This belief has allowed for the people to question its government, know who may be a threat in their neighborhood, be informed as to where their tax dollars are spent and even what is on the lunch tray at the local school cafeteria. There have and will always be articles and pictures that are embarrassing to some. We are after all imperfect and this is bound to happen. But does that mean we only inform on what is good and allow corruption, crime or tragedy to remain sealed because someone may be embarrassed? Most assuredly, there are things happening within our government that certain people would not want to become public for this very reason, but whose right is it to decide what we know and what we don’t or what we publish and what we read? Shouldn’t it be our decision? Each time a public document is withheld from those charged to inform the public or citizens don’t attend public meetings such as board of education and city council meetings or we simply don’t ask questions when answers are not apparent, part of our freedom, our right to know is either taken from us or given up by us. The only things that can be taken are what we collectively and willingly give up. Read your newspapers, attend public meetings, ask questions, demand public documents which you are legally entitled to, research your open records laws and always remember that what you know today is only because other people did these things yesterday.
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. ~Thomas Jefferson, 1787.