I enjoy holding a newspaper, reading it while sipping my coffee, putting it down and picking it up again. By turns it is informative, frustrating, amusing and personal. Like a visit with a friend, you can enjoy it anywhere, even when the power is off! The demise of the Rocky Mountain News, a conservative voice in the region for 150 years, is a loss to our society and brings to mind the role of newspapers and other media in today’s age of information overload.
Newspapers are a primary source of news and a permanent record of society. They provide an official record of events and reflect the cultural values of a community, local and regional, national and international. The New York Times considers itself the official American “paper of record.” We see references to and bylines from the Times along with the Associated Press every day. Both are considered dependable sources of information.
Journalistic ethics call for fair, balanced and accurate representation of the facts, and a newspaper is first of all a source of reliable information. The responsible print journal has standards for verification of information and builds its reputation upon that foundation. The discerning reader will be aware also of the political ideology of the writers, including editorials or opinion columns like this one.
Newspapers are the principal means for bringing accountability to local government. The freedom of the press is considered to be so significant to the maintenance of our democratic form of government that it is given primary attention in the Bill of Rights! A good newspaper offers in-depth reports about current events as well as government and business activity; columns about social events, entertainment and special interests; advertising and public notices; and editorial commentary.
The consumer has expectation of the local newspaper and this one is once chock-full of reports, news and items of community interest. It covers meetings of the Board of County Commissioners, the Board of Adjustment, the Planning Commission, the school board and the Open Space Commission, as well as various town and/or city meetings and public hearings. These government entities directly affect the quality of life in our communities, and the public needs to know what their representatives are doing — how they spend our money and implement or change our laws. A good local newspaper sends a reporter to every public meeting to report their activities, one who has no connection to the business at hand. This is its primary role in the community and what gives it value to readers.
In addition to The Denver Post, a reader can have any number of other newspapers delivered to his door on a daily basis from the New York Times to The Wall Street Journal. Many cities have daily newspapers, and most communities have a local weekly newspaper such as the Clear Creek Courant. In addition, there are alternate sources of national and regional news including cable and network television and the Internet. Most newspapers, news magazines and television networks employ their own reporters and staff writers. These sources generally follow journalistic codes regarding sources and reliability of what they present.
The Internet is a marvel of the modern age, and our society likes its instant-gratification attributes — quick and easy access to whatever you seek at the click of a mouse! The Internet is also an ephemeral source of real information with no prevailing ethical code. Anyone can create an Internet website, provide information and express an opinion. You can find literally anything on the Internet, including propaganda that carefully spins facts in order to deceive, and distorts information to achieve an end. The Internet is the perfect medium for the specious political message because it is an inexpensive and efficient means of reaching a wide audience with a message designed to manipulate perceptions. That exploitation makes it potentially harmful and requires conscientious scrutiny.
The Internet is an impersonal medium, and the consumer has no direct connection to it, literally or figuratively. It provides access to seemingly endless sources of information, which may change or disappear at a moment’s notice. The surfer can find newspapers and other journals online, in addition to official government documents and other source materials. For every reliable source of information, however, there are probably a hundred or more questionable ones. The careful consumer of Internet information must make judgments on the basis of reason, common sense and knowledge about the sources and their credibility, which calls for a bit of Sherlock Holmes’ logic!
Newspapers are permanent, reliable guides to the present and past. They have an important role as watchdogs for the good of society and recorders of community life. There is a reciprocity between the publisher and the reader: The newspaper brings honest value; the reader brings support. The Internet offers a vast wonderland of options as well as pitfalls and must be used with caution. It is a tool, not a replacement for the newsprint you now hold in your hand.
All is not what it seems in today’s world — the game is always afoot! Your local newspaper is there to offer a reasonable guide to life in your community.
Marion Anderson has lived in Clear Creek County since 1970 on Fall River Road. She is married to Clyde Anderson and has been involved in many volunteer activities for civic and private organizations.