Inside today’s edition of The Journal-News, you probably found a list of awards we won at this year’s Illinois Press Association’s Better Newspapers Contest. To say that I’m extremely proud of our staff would be an understatement.
In the contest each year, we compete against dozens of other non-daily newspapers our size, including many suburban Chicago ones. But what impresses me is that our staff works hard day in and day out, providing the best local news coverage we can all across Montgomery County, awards or not.
This year has been challenging as many of the typical things we cover have been cancelled or done virtually, which has made covering such events difficult. But our staff continues to do good work and has put together some wonderful feature stories, mostly over the phone and localized some national stories as well.
And it got me thinking about the important service newspapers provide around the country. One of the best parts of the Illinois Press Association convention is seeing the great things other Illinois newspapers are doing, especially community ones. Even though this year’s convention was held virtually, we still got some really great ideas that we hope to implement in the coming year.
Although the mainstream media often gets a bad name, and sometimes rightly so, newspapers are still a viable source of news, and local newspapers continue to provide news that you can’t get anywhere else. From local obituaries and weddings to high school sports and local government, we do our best to provide you up-to-date coverage all across Montgomery County.
When I sit in on a local government meeting, I try to provide accurate coverage of what happens and what’s said at the meeting without injecting any of my own opinion into it. That can be challenging because I always have an opinion on most things, but it’s important for readers to know what happened at those meetings and then decide for themselves how they feel about it, without any input from me.
Does that mean we always get it right? Certainly not. My mom always says, “if you think no one reads the newspaper, make a mistake, and you’ll find out pretty quickly how many do.” Despite our best efforts for accuracy and spelling, we’re human and I’ve written my fair share of corrections in the paper. But our goal is always to provide fair and accurate coverage across Montgomery County.
As a bit of a newshound, I do get some of my national news coverage online, but when people share stories on Facebook, I’m more likely to click on a story from The Washington Post or the New York Times, newspapers instead of other media outlets. Newspapers have a responsibility to their readers to provide that kind of coverage. That doesn’t mean they all do, but I’m much more likely to choose a story from a newspaper over any other news source.
However, that said, at the end of the day, I’m still solely responsible for the news I choose to read or watch. It’s my responsibility to vet stories before I share them and make sure they are accurate. Many stories online aren’t or don’t even try to be unbiased, yet they are shared over and over again as a news item.
We have to do better. We have to choose responsible reporting when we get our news and when we share it with others. People often refer to the media as a whole as “fake news,” and while it might make my skin crawl, there is legitimately “fake news” being shared on social media every single day. And you, dear reader, are responsible to make sure you are reading and sharing stories that are fair and accurate. Whether you’re a Republican, a Democrat or an Independent, it’s your job to find stories that are factual and don’t just align with the way that you think about a certain issue. Those stories are out there, and many times, it’s newspapers who are providing them. But it’s so important to make sure that you get the facts and not someone’s opinion about the matter.
I’m proud of the work we do day in and day out covering Montgomery County. From all corners of the county, we want you to know what’s happening, and we want you to have the facts. Don’t see something in our paper that you feel is important? Make sure you share it with us (email@example.com). We take it as a high compliment when people consider us their newspaper. And awards or not, we will strive to provide that same local coverage you expect from us 104 times a year.