as published in the Blytheville Courier News on Friday, September 23, 2016
“Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press….” First Amendment, United States Constitution.
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be… [But] where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to Colonel Charles Yancey on January 6, 1816.
I have been asked repetitively how the CN is going to change now that there has been a change in our newsroom editor position. I can say definitively that the style may change but the substance will not. I have decided that the best way to address this question was perhaps to simply let you know what my vision is for your newspaper.
I, like most true journalists, believe our vocation to be a high calling. There are, of course, exceptions to that blanket statement, but for the most part, we do take it that seriously. Let me tell you why.
The CN is many things, to many people. We are a community forum or “town crier” if you will, that informs our hometown of events, opportunities, jobs, achievements, legislation, births, deaths, marriages, divorces, sports scores, sales, elections, audits, criminal proceedings, road closures and the list goes on and on and on and on. The list has no end!
The CN is also a watchdog that protects YOUR freedoms, rights and tax money. It is the job of the local newspaper to keep elected and appointed officials honest and accountable. We attempt to shine a light wherever there is even a hint of darkness or secrecy. We attempt to inform you of what your officials are doing (or not doing), how they are spending your money, and if they are lying to you.
The CN is a vehicle whereby the local citizenry can be rallied to help those in need by either providing information that points out a problem, by printing announcements of how people can help address the problem and we even examine whether the problem has been solved or if new ones were simply created.
The CN gives readers the vehicle to speak directly to their officials via “letters to the editor,” while offering a larger platform to be heard and greater protection than a simple one-on-one meeting might produce.
The CN binds our community together, because after all, we are all in this together whether we like it or not. What affects one part of town directly affects the other. By deepening the community ties that bind, we can increase a sense of community and defeat the seeds of discord and abuse that we hear about so often.
Without the CN, the vast majority of residents would never know about graft, crime, favoritism, nepotism, misconduct, and a litany of other vices that are entirely detrimental to both a free society, but also to our quality of life. The CN also opens a window up to a bigger world. It informs, educates and connects us with our state, national and international brothers and sisters.
Though we don’t believe that we are the story, we do however, strive to be a part of your family and community. We don’t strive to be like the immoral reality show celebrities that sneak into our homes from time to time via television. We do, however, in the great tradition of journalists like Walter Cronkite, strive to be a part of your day. That may take the form of you sitting in your recliner and reading the print edition, you watching a CN Chat on Facebook while you are checking your email every morning at work, or even via your cell phone as you receive sports alerts and weather forecasts via text messaging throughout the entire day.
The bottom line is, we at the CN enjoy letting you into our lives and we are honored that you have let us into yours. Unfortunately, I am sure that we will continue to make the occasional mistake or typo. But always know that we recognize our responsibility as a sacred trust.
Thank you for the support that you have shown us in the past and because we know that the stronger your local newspaper is, the better all of our quality of life shall be, we pledge to always live up to the trust that you have given us. We have been here since 1898 and we aren’t going anywhere. You and us…we are family!