During National Newspaper Week, Oct. 6-12, news media across the country have been emphasizing how newspapers like us help you exercise your First Amendment freedoms. We decided to join in, too. Our editorial board believes the First Amendment holds the key to preserving our nation’s government of the people, by the people and for the people.
In Tuesday’s edition, we printed a column by David Chavern, president and CEO of the News Media Alliance, a trade organization for newspapers and other news media. Chavern explained how local newspapers like the Register allow residents across the country to make their voice heard and keep tabs on their government officials. Local media’s importance is especially felt in areas like Gainesville that are far from the national media megaphones in New York or Los Angeles.
On Wednesday, Kathy Kiely, who helps train the next generation of journalists, explained some of the economic realities of today’s news environment and how you as a consumer can make sure the information you’re getting is bona fide — not a piece of propaganda or “snake oil” from someone trying to use you for their own ends.
On Thursday, Gene Policinski of the Freedom Forum Institute emphasized how the hard work of newsrooms puts useful information in your hands so you can hold elected officials accountable. It’s not sexy or flashy, but it’s the kind of information that matters in the long run.
And on Friday, one of the leaders in our parent company, CNHI, reiterated how newspapers become “the champions of ordinary men and women.” Jim Zachary, deputy national editor, wrote that the press exists to help protect the freedoms outlined in the First Amendment, and we couldn’t agree more.
Today, we encourage you to embrace your own role in preserving those foundational freedoms.
Richard R. Beeman, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania, said it well:
“Our Constitution is neither a self-actuating nor a self-correcting document. It requires the constant attention and devotion of all citizens,” he wrote in an essay for the National Constitution Center. “There is a story, often told, that upon exiting the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin was approached by a group of citizens asking what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer was: ‘A republic, if you can keep it.’
“The brevity of that response should not cause us to under-value its essential meaning: democratic republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people, they are also absolutely dependent upon the active and informed involvement of the people for their continued good health.”
Active and informed involvement. That means you.
By the way, news outlets rely more and more on subscribers like you to support the work that it takes to preserve our freedoms. If there’s an outlet whose information you consider reliable, sign up for a subscription or send in a donation if it’s a nonprofit. Of course, we hope you’ll count us in that group. Remember to let your friends know about the outlets you value most, too.
But don’t stop there. When you read, hear or watch something in the news, consider making your voice heard through a letter to the editor. Staffers in the offices of state and national legislators read local newspapers to gauge how their constituents feel about various issues. You can use that knowledge to make your opinion matter to them.