Our View: The light of journalism | TheUnion.com

Our View: The light of journalism

The Union Editorial Board

Right now there’s a reporter working on a story you’ll want to read.

That work includes talking to sources, verifying the information, writing the copy, having it vetted by an editor and then likely adding more information that wasn’t in the first draft.

This reporter isn’t thinking about the McClatchy Company’s bankruptcy, announced last week though anticipated for months. He or she isn’t brooding over the uncertain state of journalism.

They’re thinking about doing the job they love. Getting the news out, and doing it right.

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Those basic principles seem in jeopardy these days. That reporter might not worry, but plenty of others sure do.

McClatchy’s bankruptcy plan, if approved, would give control of the company to a hedge fund. We can forgive McClatchy a lot, but that’s no way to do journalism. Profit should never be the sole reason to be in this business, and you better believe a hedge fund isn’t concerned about local readers.

And that, at its core, will break any reporter’s heart.

Of course, there’s only so much you can do when you’re up against the wall and creditors have arrows aimed at your head.

The McClatchy family understood the meaning of journalism, and ran their papers that way for generations. Generations. McClatchy papers have won hundreds of honors, including Pulitzers. Pour out some ink over their legacy — one that was earned through sweat and trust built over years.

McClatchy says it plans on coming through bankruptcy, and will continue to run its newspapers. For our sake, we hope that happens.

This region needs a Sacramento-based newspaper with reporters covering the Capitol. The Sacramento Bee once served that role admirably, and we, as California residents, desperately need it. Without it, we lose essential knowledge that makes us better citizens and voters.

This is a watershed moment, not just for a newspaper company but for every North State resident who wants information about the world around them.

Newspapers across this country have been scrambling for years in the attempt to make the revenue they once figuratively printed. Papers were fat, dumb and happy, and couldn’t — or wouldn’t — pivot quickly enough when the world changed.

The number of newspapers that have disappeared over the past 15 years — some 1,800 — is a number that should make anyone pause.

Many people believe their news should come free, and shirk at paying a fee or when hitting a paywall online. What they don’t understand is that journalism isn’t free. Somebody paid for that content to appear online. You may be viewing it for free now, but that won’t always be the case.

And you won’t realize how important it was until it’s gone.

Most elected officials behave better when they know the media will report their actions. They watch for the cameras and the live feeds during meetings. It affects their behavior, as it should.

We wouldn’t know what’s happening in our community, and our state, without those cameras and live feeds and lone reporters scribbling away.

“Democracy dies in darkness” — The Washington Post’s slogan — isn’t just a phrase to be sold on a T-shirt. It’s a real consequence our nation faces as newspapers across the country slowly disappear, like candles failing, one by one.

News organizations, The Union included, need to better tout their purpose and showcase what they offer. They need to better adapt to an ever-changing landscape, and find new methods of making revenue.

The people who rely on news — and that should be all of us — need to understand that nothing of value comes free. They must be willing to pay for journalism, and instill its importance in the next generation.

You might rarely think of the reporter watching a local council meeting, or a hearing at the state Capitol, or any number of events that affect your community and state.

You should. Like oxygen feeding a candle illuminating the room, that reporter needs sustenance.

When they don’t receive it, they falter.

And we’re left in darkness.

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.


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