Commentary, National Commentary

Editorial: Democracy Depends On Newspapers

Our editor (to be honest, the writer of this piece), in his role as a private citizen of the City of Falls Church, which he has been since around this time of year in 1985 (37 years), submitted a petition to the Falls Church City Council this week, something he very rarely does since he normally considers his editorials here as more than sufficient to get his views across. But in this case, he was writing as a citizen who recognizes the importance of journalism and a free press in a democracy, and not as the editor of the local paper seeking to gain something for his business, which is how his suggestions on such matters are routinely taken.

It does happen to be the case that our editor’s management of this newspaper has enabled it to survive wave upon wave of pressures known to most that have veritably pulverized the newspaper businesses nationally and has wiped out the majority of community newspapers even in this region. This editorial is being written not to seek praise or even to appeal for assistance in keeping this newspaper afloat. But it is true that if anyone is assuming this paper will simply waltz along in the face of the kinds of pressures on the industry in general, they simply have to be dreaming. This newspaper credits a very talented and devoted tiny cadre of happy warriors to keep its lights on, and will continue to do so. We are not asking for any handouts, just, as we say in our immortal 7-Point Platform of aspirational values and goals we print in every issue drafted a century ago by one of our editor’s mentors, that we “give value received for every dollar we take in.”

The “value received” we offer is our unique role as a community newspaper that has faithfully served this Little City for 32 years so far. As an independent newspaper, in the manner understood by Benjamin Franklin and other leaders of the Enlightenment that led to the American Revolution, the Constitution and the founding of this republic, this newspaper is dedicated to reaching everyone in our community and as such has been carrier-delivered to every address in the City and otherwise available at many public locations since Day One. It is not delimited in its exposure in  myriad ways that Internet forms of communication necessarily are.

A newspaper’s value is not just that information is disseminated by it. Most fundamentally, as in the case of all good newspapers, it is because they set a means of and a standard for reasoned discourse that becomes the grounding by which all members of a community share in a common lot. It is not because any article or editorial is a be-all or end-all of truth. But they are, to the extent they are couched in reason and careful discourse, the basis by which readers evaluate their own thoughts and come to decisions in interaction with others.