It was announced last week by Pew Research that employment at newspapers across the nation had, in the last decade, declined by almost 50 percent. With that and corresponding numbers of newspapers closing down around the nation, I thought how fortunate we are in Warren County to be served by four media outlets, including our own nearly two-year-old Royal Examiner online newspaper.
Washington Post writer Margaret Sullivan said it best in a recent column: “The dire (Pew) numbers play out in ugly ways: public officials aren’t held accountable; town budgets go unscrutinized; experienced journalists are working at Walmart, or not at all, instead of plying their much-needed trade in their communities.”
The Pew study came after the New York Daily News announced a 50-percent reduction in its newsroom staff; and the world’s largest news service, The Associated Press (for which I once worked), amalgamated certain domestic bureaus and effected layoffs across the country. Pew reported that employment in newspaper newsrooms between 2008 and this year declined 45 percent.
Sullivan summed it up with these words: “One problem with losing local news coverage is that we never know what we don’t know. Corruption can flourish, taxes can rise, public officials can indulge their worst impulses.”
But not so, at least so far, in Warren County where the Royal Examiner and its three print brethren continue to provide a rich and varied coverage of local affairs.
How fortunate we are!
After plying a journalism and public relations career for 70 years I’ve learned this truism: that newspapers help maintain a degree of honesty and integrity in the governments they cover, be it at the local or national level.
Journalists continue to be not an enemy of the people as has been suggested from on high, but a guardian of the people’s affairs. My colleagues and other local journalists I know today, as the scores of journalists I’ve worked with over the years did before them, continue to tell it as it is.
For the most part, the so-called “fake news” springs only from fake information spewed by politicians satisfying their own spurious ends. There are occasions, both nationally and locally, when media outlets have stumbled or consciously allowed themselves to be used as tools of those in the halls of power. But more often than not, their fellow media and the public at large have caught them in the act and held them up to public scrutiny for their failures or indiscretions.
How fortunate we are in our corner of the world to continue to have a small band of reporters and editors honestly working for the public good from four separate newspapers.
To them, and to their publishers, a tip of my hat, one and all.
(The writer, who retired to Rockland in 2002, is a contributing writer at the Royal Examiner. He spent 25 years working for newspapers in three countries, including a 10-year stint with the world’s largest news service, The Associated Press. He also completed a quarter century as a public affairs officer with various federal government departments in Washington D.C. as well as two years as a U.S. Senate press secretary.)