By TOM HARALDSEN
Like many of you, I awoke to the news of the Las Vegas shootings on Monday morning and immediately turned on the TV to learn more. I knew they would have the latest developments, perhaps some images of emergency responders at the scene, and a few details about the tragedy.
I also knew that what I would see electronically—either on television or online—would be a very scant coverage of the story. The more in-depth coverage, free of bias or political slants or rumor mill gossip, would come in print. Newspapers and magazines would give me the whole story, just as they’ve done for over 240 years.
This is National Newspaper Week, a good time for those of in print journalism to extoll our virtues, of course. And a good time to offer some food for thought about the importance that newspapers play in any society. This is the 77th year that National Newspaper Week has been celebrated by the nation’s print press, and the theme this year is “Real Newspapers, Real News.”
We hear a lot today about what’s not real in the news—alternative facts, made-up quotes, rapidly produced details that prove to be inaccurate. Case in point: In the minutes after the Las Vegas shootings began, social media started spreading the rumors—there were 30 shooters all around Vegas, terrorists were taking over some hotels and casinos, etc. All unproven, all false, but running like wildfire across cell phones and computer screens from coast to coast. Not vetted by informed, educated, professional journalists, these kinds of “rush to be first” type reports can cause widespread panic, and in this case, might have done exactly that.
Newspapers survived the advent of TV and radio, but the threat of the 24/7 Internet-delivered media, along with commercials and amusements, have disrupted the very reality for which newspapers were first invented. It’s become very difficult to tell the difference between “real news” and “fake news.” And newspapers aren’t perfect either. But as a reporter, the job of someone writing for a newspaper is to be thorough, accurate and complete. Even though we all have newspaper websites and thus an online presence, it’s not our job to always rush to be first. I’d rather tell you something an hour after someone else has if that extra 60 minutes allows me to be more factual and accurate.
Our challenge is to keep journalism real—and that requires fact-checking, research, building trusts and staying devoted to truth and honesty. Newspapers were born before electricity and telegraphs. They have witnessed and reported on the changes of realities—the founding of this nation, space travel, world wars, and even the advent of the Internet.
My hope is that society will never forget the importance of newspapers in our daily lives. There are many sources we can turn to when we want to learn about events or activities happening in our communities, our state and our nation. Newspapers should always remain one of the most important sources.