Two years has gone by fast. Here I am writing a column for the last paper I will put out at The Newton County Appeal, and it doesn’t seem real. I remember my first day, driving up the old Union Appeal office, putting my bag down on the desk and turning right around to go cover the ribbon cutting for Union Mercantile.
In newspaper time, two years is 104 deadlines, 624 stories and 1,095 cups of coffee. It’s a lot of late night meetings and frantic typing to meet deadline. It’s dozens of angry calls and quietly murmured praise. It’s community journalism. It’s what I do, and it’s what I love.
Friday, July 24 will be my last day at the paper. I am not one for prolonged goodbyes, weepy sentiment or general physical contact. I will not wax poetic about the honor or privilege of being a part of Newton County’s community. Hallmark, be it the channel, store or cards, make me ill.
Instead, I want to leave with a simple request. Please support community journalism.
The truth is the news industry has not done a very good job of adapting to the digital age. Instead of embracing the internet as a new way to disseminate and source news, newspapers fought a doomed battle to maintain print supremacy. Even today, with almost every newspaper having a website and social media, we still haven’t figured out how to get the news out there without going under.
The truth is journalists are not very good at explaining what they do and why it matters, and they really aren’t good at asking for help. Comments like, “why should I pay for news,” receive snarky replies instead of rational arguments why what we do is worth your subscription dollars.
Community journalists tell the stories of the community. We let people know what their elected officials are doing, why they’re doing it and how the people’s tax dollars are being spent. Often, we are the only members of the public at local government and school board meetings.
On Friday nights in the fall, we’re in the stands or on the sidelines making sure our young athletes are recognized for their achievements, and on election night, we’re crammed into the courthouses, relaying information to voters on who won.
Community journalists are a part of the communities we cover. We develop relationships with our neighbors, identify the issues residents care about and provide information crucial to making informed decisions.
I ask you to show your support for community journalism by welcoming my replacement the same way you welcomed me. I ask you to show your support for community journalism by subscribing or renewing your subscription. Finally, I ask you to show your support for community journalism by helping improve it. Call your local paper. Let the editor and reporters know what they’re missing and what you wish would be covered. Tell us how we can do a better job covering our community.
You can contact Thomas Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org