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Local newspaper, community journalists essential to economic success

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This column is reprinted with permission from the December 16, 2021 edition of The Freeman Courier

You will hear people say that newspapers, print and digital, are obsolete and no longer needed. This mindset stems, in part, from the fact that social media platforms permeate our culture. So why not just cut the media out and instead rely on social media for information?

Social media can be a useful source of information, but not all content posted on social media is accurate or reliable. Technology has made it possible for almost everyone to gain large audiences by sharing posts online. These people, however, are not bound by a code of ethics, as are professional journalists. Social media provides the perfect platform for propaganda to be presented as real “news” by those with very partisan motivations. Making critical decisions about what is right and what is not can be a challenge for the average reader. As a result, disinformation spreads quickly and widely via social media, making it unreliable as a single source of information.

While journalists have the opportunity to share their views in the form of editorials, they, unlike the average person who publishes information online, have a responsibility to be precise, to verify the information and to use the information. original sources. Right now, however, the newspaper industry is facing unprecedented challenges and publishers must think outside the box to come up with a creative new business model that will allow them to survive.

Make no mistake, local newspapers most certainly stand out from other private businesses. Just last year, Andrew Johnson, outgoing president of the National Newspaper Association, summed it up this way: “No other business has the rights of its citizens tied to it like community newspapers do.

A free press is, in fact, protected by the First Amendment. “The press” happens to be the only private enterprise mentioned in the Constitution by our founding fathers, because it plays an essential role in our democracy by providing citizens with accurate information. While we hated one of our local businesses shutting down, the gap we would have in the absence of a newspaper would be huge. A strong local newspaper – which Le Courrier certainly is, as evidenced by its numerous awards – offers significant economic value to a community.

Let’s take note of some of the ways The Courier serves our community. It serves as a consistent and reliable source of reference for community-specific information. It relays urgent announcements on its website in real time. He keeps us posted on upcoming community events. It allows us to read about school activities, sporting events and issues facing the local community. It provides a forum for alternative views and discourses. It generates revenue for local businesses by distributing advertising to the people most likely to patronize their business. It serves as a watchdog to ensure transparency, efficiency, financial responsibility and accountability among civic leaders. It raises awareness and relays information to be taken into account as problems are dealt with and decisions are made. It retains the status to be able to publish legal notices. It provides community members with a central place to share news about marriages, births and deaths. It documents our history and archives so that past events can be referenced and reflected on later. This allows us to become aware of stories of human interest that otherwise would not be told. It serves as an essential marketing tool by capturing highlights and presenting the community to a wider audience. This creates a feeling of cohesion and unites us around a specific topic in the community. It demonstrates and generates a sense of community pride and is truly something to celebrate.

Now imagine if everything went away.

A Federal Trade Commission report noted that local newspapers are the best way to shed light on major issues and provide residents with the information they need. While the information made available by local reporting helps guide decision-making, a chilling revelation included in the report was that those with the least access to local news are often the most vulnerable, the poorest, the least educated. and the most isolated. These are certainly not descriptors for a community that seeks to thrive.

By attending Zoom meetings and in-person sessions with a wide range of professionals from across the region and across the country, I have come to learn one thing: When people hear that I am from Freeman, an answer. frequent has to do with Freeman housing The Courier. My sense of pride continues to grow as I rejoice to hear people taking the time to tell other meeting attendees about the high quality of our local newspaper. Entirely dedicated to the Freeman and Menno communities, The Courier has indeed put our two small towns on the map.

Financial challenges have forced thousands of newspapers to disappear. What can we do to ensure that Le Courrier does not become one of these statistics? We can encourage people to read The Courier and stay informed. We may enter into an agreement with The Courier by purchasing a Courier subscription with a dollar amount that reflects its value. We can encourage others to do the same. We may even ask employers to offer Courier memberships as a benefit to their employees.

The value of a local newspaper cannot be understated. A local newspaper keeps us informed. In addition, informed and engaged citizens constitute a prosperous and economically prosperous community.

Carol J. Eisenbeis describes herself as a news junkie and avid reader of The Freeman Courier. She is the Freeman Community Ambassador in her role as the Development and Marketing Coordinator for the Town of Freeman.