Growing up, Huntsville had a local paper, The Huntsville Times. I took a field trip to its offices one year, and I got to see how the paper was made. I didn’t know that the building would be abandoned and bulldozed within a decade. There’s now a gentrified shopping center with yuppie restaurants and the latest shops where it used to be. There’s a sign on the building, “The Times,” in mock homage to what used to be there.
I didn’t know what local journalism did for me and my community. It competed with television media at the time, offering more sophisticated coverage that television couldn’t manage in a short program. More than that, print journalism was able to cover important stories that the television news cycle couldn’t handle.
Don’t get me wrong: local television news is better than some of the stuff I can find on dedicated news channels. But TV news has to rely on people telling a story in a short time frame. As soon as the story’s over, it’s off to the next whatever that’s getting the public’s attention.
Including things like Twitter feuds and stupid stuff said on social media.
I’m mentioning all of this now because print news on the Internet isn’t the same thing as the local news my family used to subscribe to. The headlines have gotten worse. It feels like things are oversimplified in online video media to the point that meaning itself is winnowed out in the process. In an age where meaning is hard to come by, we need journalism more than anything.
Or maybe it’s just sentimentality. Maybe we do have good journalism, but it’s harder to find. Instead of it getting put in a paper and delivered to my door, I have to go find it myself. It could be that I’m just lamenting the fact that I have to do for myself what used to be done for me.
Whatever the reason, I have this sense of loss that I can’t figure out how to remedy. But it’s out of a need for information I can trust more than anything else. I want to be informed without feeling like someone’s just repeating what they want me to believe. That distinction is getting lost, I think, and I don’t know how to get it back.
Regardless, I wish I could thank local journalists for all they do. Many times, they have to suffer to get information to the public. What they do matters, whether it’s in an old-fashioned newsroom or somewhere with wi-fi and a cup of coffee.