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‘White out’ is a reminder of what life would be without newspapers

As you noticed from this week’s front page of the Pope County Tribune, this is “white out” week. It is a reminder of what the world, or at least Glenwood and Pope County, would be like if there were no newspaper stories.

As a weekly newspaper, the Pope County Tribune concentrates on local news. There is good news and not so good news. And yet, it is all news, whether we like it or not.

There s no joy in running a news article about a tragic death, accident or fire. Yet it is news. And because the news is obtained from people in the know, fire departments and police and sheriff’s departments, it may be a little more factual than what you might have heard over a cup of coffee from someone else.

Newspapers cover governments, and this may be one of their most important duties. This coverage provides information about what governments are doing and deciding in your behalf. It might be a policy, a local ordinance, a new department or expansions or reductions in an existing department or budgetary issues that affect your local property taxes. All are important to you.

This is information you can, and should, use when you go to the polls to make a decision about who should fill various local government positions. It gives you information from an independent source, in most cases one without a stake in the outcome of whatever was decided.

Government officials and the press don’t have a very cozy relationship. It is not the job for the press to act as a public relations spokesperson for the decisions of government. It is the job of the press to provide accurate coverage so you can decide whether or not various governmental units’ actions are what you think they should be.

Many times people don’t understand the issues facing a governmental unit, and the press should include those issues in its coverage. Often there are reasons for making decisions, such as bringing a local government into compliance with a state or federal law. Sometimes those reasons conflict with what the local government folks would like to see, but they have to go along anyway. But it is helpful for everyone that you know that.

Government officials are happy with the press when the news is good. They are not happy with the press when the news is not good. Sometimes they will try to hide information that might make them look bad.

Needless to say, President Donald J. Trump’s consideration of most major news outlets as sources of “fake news” makes the press uncomfortable. This usually happens when some press outlet has a “scoop” of some sort that Mr. Trump doesn’t like.

Who knows what the investigation of the Trump campaign staff’s connection to Russia will turn up, if anything.
But the fact that a number of Trump’s campaign staff and supporters denied ever meeting with any Russians during the campaign and have since indicated that they did indeed meet with Russians with current or former connections with the Russian government causes one to wonder what was really going on.

Work by major news outlets will eventually get to the truth. You will be able to use those facts to determine whether there is an issue there or not.

This brings up the subject of “leaks.” Leaks are tidbits of information provided to the media or others that government officials would rather the public didn’t know. Media that use this information check to make sure it is factual by talking with other sources. A major concern is that someone might use a leak to advance his or her personal position. The traditional leak is from someone frustrated that the media can’t find the truth from sources that are supposed to be provide truthful information.

Probably now more than ever a free, functioning press is important. You need to know who is working for your best interests and who is not. You need information to make that decision. “White out” is a reminder of what life would be like without independent news sources.

 
The Starbuck Times
The Starbuck Times