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MOLLY McROBERTS: Stories educate, enlighten through newspapers pages

A guest editorial
from Molly McRoberts,
Potter County News

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan.
While I could be described as  a devoted critic of our president, he has been much more amplified in his continued and unfounded criticism of me.
While he has not directly used my name, he certainly berates my profession.  And though some would suggest that I’m overreacting because he doesn’t care about small town weeklies, I would argue that is part of the problem.
As president, I think he should care.
As voters, I know we need to.
It appears that he has a far different interpretation than I of the 45 words that grant us five important freedoms in the First Amendment. His trumpeting of “fake news” has trickled down, giving local politicians the courage to say the same about their weekly papers if they don’t like us letting readers know about what they have said or done in an open, or adjourned, meeting.
It’s a far cry from our founding fathers. While they often disagreed with the press, they knew the important role it played in our country’s democracy, and saw to it that it was documented.
My job isn’t to be liked, which is a good thing because I would starve if it were. I’m a type of watchdog. I’m here to alert you when you need to know what is happening in our community.
Sometimes you need me to turn over the rocks and shine a light on what’s underneath.
More often, I’m a story teller. I help you learn about our history through the memories of the 100 year old at the manor, or think about the old gentleman who remembers the taste of the dirt that drifted along the fence line during the “Dirty 30s.” I help you to better understand the child who communicates through the puzzling world of autism, or the neighbor who is faced with a serious surgery. Their stories educate and enlighten through the pages of our paper.
It’s our news, exclusively local and often seen nowhere else. In our little corner of the world, it touches all our lives.
And there is nothing fake about it. We do this in spite of crippling tariffs on newsprint that are leaving some places with no newspapers of their own. We do it in spite of the anonymous threats or vicious comments from the uniformed.
Yet we continue to provide the information for you, as fairly and accurately as possible. You have the responsibility to read and learn  from different sources and different perspectives; then to sort through to think about and understand.
But choose your sources wisely. Some sources (credible newspapers, for example) are bound by slander and libel laws, unlike the uncontrolled “thunder dome” of social media. We fact check and ask questions and try to show both sides. We make mistakes, like anyone, but more often we get it right, because we have a job to do that empowers our readers with knowledge and is important to the continued success of our democracy.
And if doing that makes our leaders stoop to name calling, so be it.
When you hear leaders referring to journalists as the “enemy of the people,” you need to ask who the real enemy is. Is it the photographer who spends the weekend covering your kids at a sports event? Or the reporter who covers the local meetings so you know how your tax dollars are being spent? Or the writer who penned the editorial questioning the actions of public officials?
Or could it be the person who is quoting fascist dictators who often spoke of the “enemy of the people?”
Please know that I’m not your enemy. I’m on your side — I’m one of you. I live here, too. I’m a taxpayer. I run a business. I care.
And I’m also a journalist, which means I have a job to do. But understand that we are telling the stories of people we know and care about. When the siren blows, we check to make sure it’s the noon whistle and not a fire. When the ambulance heads out, we check on our family and worry for others.
And often, when we have to write the story, we cry.
But we understand that it is news, and no matter whether it’s in a big city daily or our little county weekly, we tell it as fairly and accurately as we can.
Because democracy needs information to survive. And that makes the news very real.
– Molly McRoberts –