The First Amendment, which protects freedom of the press, was adopted on December 15, 1791, as part of the Bill of Rights. Before the Internet, social media, cable television, and radio, the hometown newspaper connected residents and neighbors to each other through stories, pictures, and published events.
P. T. Barnum declared, “He who is without a newspaper is cut off from his species.”
My grandparents lived in the same house on the same piece of land in the same hollow in the same county for decades. The newspaper was fundamental for them. As a child, I was amazed that a rolled-up paper could be unfolded into a large paper with multiple pages. And I liked the feel of the thin paper on my fingertips, and the crinkly sound as the pages turned.
My grandpa read the newspaper from cover to cover. My grandma cut out any pictures or stories about people she knew and saved the newspaper clippings until they yellowed with age. Due to her upbringing in the hills of Appalachia, she reused almost everything. The older newspapers were used to line the bottom of her birdcages or cellar shelves or to wrap vegetables from the garden to give to neighbors.
The invention of modern technological devices has replaced newspapers for much of the younger crowd. They utilize Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, Podcasts, Apps, and Internet websites for their information.
While change is necessary, it also is scary. “Printer’s ink is the great apostle of progress; whose pulpit is the press,” declared Horace Greeley. And some things like local newspapers need to remain intact. Michael Connelly lamented, “A newspaper is the center of a community, it’s one of the tent poles of the community, and that’s not going to be replaced by websites and blogs.” I agree.
People still read newspapers. According to a recent online article in Editor & Publisher,a Nielsen Scarborough study suggested “that in an average month, 169 million adults read a U.S. newspaper. They may be reading it in one or more iterations — in print, on the web, via a mobile app, courtesy of an e-newsletter or through a social media news feed.”
How do residents show support for their local newspaper? Plain and simple. Pay for a subscription. Whether you read your news in the morning, afternoon, or evening; whether you read your newspapers in print or digital; whether you read state or local newspapers—take time to sprinkle a few words of kudos in an email, text, or card to the dedicated folks in front of and behind the printing presses. Write a Letter to the Editor and express your gratitude. Compliment them on social media. Thank them for coverage of community events, grand openings, council meetings, births, weddings, and funerals, national, state, and local news. Give praise for good journalism.
Think about the many employment positions at newspaper offices. From the publisher to the carrier, each person needs appreciation for the teamwork it takes to publish a daily, a weekly, or a monthly newspaper. From the paper version to the online version, it takes diligence to snoop and scoop events, stories, and happenings.
Let us count our blessings for a free press in the United States of America.
Melissa Martin, PhD, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She resides in Ohio.