Journalism has long history and important future

BY CASEY MANN, News + Record Staff
Posted 2/15/19

Working in the news business can be difficult. For every reporter, it truly is a labor of love. We work weird, long hours, and often for little pay. Our jobs are tough and our futures are often …

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Journalism has long history and important future

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Working in the news business can be difficult. For every reporter, it truly is a labor of love. We work weird, long hours, and often for little pay. Our jobs are tough and our futures are often uncertain. We seek out the facts, search for context, and report on what we’ve learned in hopes that the communities we serve will be better informed and grow. Newspapers have had a place in society since the 1600s with varying degrees of censorship, but in 18th century in the United States, newspapers became a political force in the campaign for American independence. Its value was so ingrained in our culture that press freedoms were protected in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, since the 1940s, newspapers have declined significantly. According to a study conducted by the University of North Carolina, 20 percent of community papers across the U.S. have closed their doors since 2004 alone.

And its not just the small community news outlets feeling the pinch. Last month, three major companies, which include Buzzfeed, HuffPost, and Gannett, which is one of the last big newspaper chains that has properties in markets of all size, all announced major cuts in staff.

Adding insult to injury, the day reporters at Buzzfeed and HuffPost learned they lost their jobs, they were the victims of a coordinated flood of online attacks which appear to be orchestrated by 4chan, a far-right messenger board, whose members often espouse far-right extremism, white supremacy and white nationalism.

As soon as the journalists learned they were laid off, threatening memes, racial slurs, and direct threats to their social media feeds, their email addresses, and even their PayPal accounts. According to reports, Talia Lavin, a freelance writer for HuffPost before she was laid off, found 4chan threads with users bragging about taunting the journalists and urging other members to join in the effort.

While this type of troll attack is disheartening, there is something even more troublesome that these workers were attacked for their job which is to report truth. To be fair, not everyone who works in the media is a arbiter of truth — there are commentators, muckrakers, and outright propagandists — but I don’t consider those folks reporters. Most reporters are just doing their jobs, working their beats, doing their best to get the facts out to the people they serve — the public they serve.

Even here in Chatham County, we are not immune. I personally have been threatened in a variety of ways for both reporting facts and refusing to report falsehoods or innuendo. But none of that has stopped us from producing the best news we can with the resources we have.

I am a journalist. I believe in investigating and reporting the truth. And I believe in the importance of the community newspaper, often the one source for truly local news. This is especially true in rural areas where community news has been hit the hardest by declines.

In spite of the challenges, or maybe even because of them, I will continue to work hard to produce journalism that serves the Chatham County community.

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