We at the News-Press have been deeply humbled and honored by the amazing outpouring of warmth, support and appreciation for our 25 years of effort displayed at our special 25th anniversary celebration last Thursday that spilled over to the annual banquet of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce Saturday (see article, page 1 of this edition). We continue to receive acknowledgments and good wishes from people in many quarters that we meet in the course of our daily operations and our comings and goings around Falls Church.
The occasion has been cause for celebrations and kudos, and we also hope it will be seen as an instructive inflection point concerning the continuing viability and importance of newspapers, good old fashioned print newspapers that serve communities.
Many people have been proclaiming the death of print journalism in recent years, citing the Internet as the principal cause. Just as the advent of radio, and then television, ate into the influence of print newspapers in the last century, the Internet has surely taken its toll on newspapers in recent years. Many newspapers have veritably abandoned traditional classified ads, for example, in the face of influences like Craigslist on line.
But there is another side to this question, a moral, political and ethical side to it, that thoughtful people are beginning to take into account. Namely, we contend that there is a direct correlation between the declining influence of print newspapers in local communities, and the rise of incivility that we’re seeing polluting so much of our political discourse in the last year, on both the national and local level.
This is because newspapers, when they are a widespread factor in a community, set a standard for discourse and civility by which other forms of communications, such as anonymous diatribes or erroneous information posted on the Internet, are evaluated and judged by the public.
It has been tragic to see how many communities, including in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, have suffered from the demise of their community newspapers, even when those newspapers have not been of the highest quality. (Not included in this are the large chains of suburban newspapers which operate out of one central office that purport to represent a dozen or more localities, but have no important impact on local communities. It’s because they pay minimal attention them, being primarily interested in showing large circulation numbers to sell advertising.)
But over the course of the 25 years history of the News-Press, we’ve seen localities lose their community papers to an alarming degree: there one week, gone the next, often with little or no advance notice.
To be clear, it has not been easy sledding for the News-Press, especially coming through the Great Recession. But it has mattered to be deeply imbedded in and responsive to the community we serve. We’re showing it can be done. By our example, we heartily encourage new efforts to create or revive local newspapers in communities everywhere.