At a recent public meeting of government officials one of those present was talking about a news story and said, “It was one of the few times a journalist got it right.”

We are dismayed hearing this kind of bashing of newspapers and journalists because most journalists do try to get it right.

Journalism does have a rollicking history –- that includes a young Mark Twain making up outright lies about citizens on the frontier of Nevada and the muckraking newspapers of the early 20th century.

Setting aside the sensational tabloids, that kind of journalism for serious newspapers has subsided quite a bit due in part to many excellent journalism programs in colleges and universities nationwide.

 Time was when aspiring journalists were taught in vibrant newsrooms, often by crusty editors, to “get the facts right,” which is something that involves constant questioning and fact checking to make sure that, yes, we got it right.

Of course, there are always two or more sides to any story, and most journalists do try to present them.

We don’t know which news outlet this official was referring to, but it may be that nowadays and for the last several years, some people don’t like to read or know “the facts.”

At a time when Americans have more media access than ever, we at the Observer do our best to get the facts right and make us a reliable source of information.

“We are inundated with stories, memes, videos and promotions 24 hours a day,” says Dean Ridings, CEO of America’s Newspapers, in honor of National Newspaper Week, Oct. 1 to 7. “Most of us are on social media, which is built to provide an endless feed of content to keep us glued to our screens. And unfortunately, misinformation is prevalent and much of that content isn’t fact-checked, verified or professionally produced.

“The result is that we’re not always shown what we need to know, or the information that is most likely to impact our lives. That’s where local newspapers come in.”

But local news outlets are becoming fewer.

According to Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications’ October 2022 State of Local News report: “Newspapers are continuing to vanish at a rapid rate. An average of more than two a week are disappearing.

“Since 2005, the country has lost more than a fourth of its newspapers (2,500) and is on track to lose a third by 2025.

“Even though the pandemic was not the catastrophic ‘extinction-level event’ some feared, the country lost more than 360 newspapers between the waning pre-pandemic months of late 2019 and the end of May 2022.  

“All but 24 of those papers were weeklies, serving communities ranging in size from a few hundred people to tens of thousands. Most communities that lose a newspaper do not get a digital or print replacement. The country has 6,380 surviving papers: 1,230 dailies and 5,150 weeklies.”

The Outer Banks would seem to be an outlier from these statistics as it has several local news sources. In addition to the Ocracoke Observer, there are online The Island Free Press, The Outer Banks Voice, and OBX Today.

These papers are run by journalists who believe in fairness, accuracy, integrity and getting the facts right, in making a difference.

We aren’t perfect and when we make mistakes, we like to quickly correct them.

But be aware that, as Philip L. Graham, the publisher of The Washington Post said, “Journalism is the first rough draft of a history that will never be completed about a world we can never really understand.”

This is particularly true with major breaking news stories which become more accurate with subsequent updates.

The news business is exciting, and the adrenaline can flow when chasing a major event, striving for accuracy, fairness and good writing. 

It’s a lifelong learning job, in which those working in it enjoy learning and illuminating both the good and the bad in society.

Whether you access the content from your local newspaper in print or online, remember that it is produced for you. And behind the articles, columns, and images is a team of local residents who are committed to making your community stronger.

Many years ago, radio was declared dead. It wasn’t. Ocracoke has its own, vibrant community radio station, WOVV (Ocracoke’s Village Voice).

Newspapers are down, but not dead.

It’s time for a resurgence for community newspapers.

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  1. I so agree with this excellent opinion about the significance of local newspapers/outlets. Keep up the excellent reporting at the Ocracoke Observer.

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