Support local journalism – or run for office

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

“…Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers & be capable of reading them.”            - Thomas Jefferson

Local and independent journalism has never been more essential, or urgent – or challenged – than it is right now.

“The media” is demonized and dismissed like it has never been before. It also, according to subscriptions and online views, has never been more popular and widely supported.

Media (and online) outlets, large and small, are surging both in popularity and what might be called the secondary market – “sharing” and continuing conversations.

The truth is, media matters, words matter and yes, even “truth” matters far more than it did just a few short months ago.

Accusations, rumors and just plain ridiculous stories fill our inboxes, our conversations and our minds. Our brains are full, our minds are distracted – and if you know your dystopian story lines, that’s the intention.

If we don’t believe words, what do we believe?

If we don’t trust our politicians, our media, even our religious figures, (and we dare not trust ourselves) is it very long before we even forget what trust is?

We even have established politicians who brag of making up stories and lying to the public (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/maine-governor-says-sooner-print-press-goes-away-better-society-will/) and proclaim that “the sooner the print press goes away, the better society will be.”

Those who suppress freedom always do so in the name of law and order.   – John Lindsay

More women are running for office than ever before. Photo: Morf Morford

More women are running for office than ever before. Photo: Morf Morford

When we have public figures and statements like this,“truth” – even that fleeting sense of “your truth vs. my truth” recedes off in the distance before we can claim it.

And we realize, with the jolt of someone who has lost something – or someone – they thought they would have forever – that truth, real truth, truth that matters and holds meaning and binds relationships and speaks to today and tomorrow – is difficult to find, easy to lose and challenging to keep.

If we think truth makes us uncomfortable, just wait for the full embarrassment of chaos and deception; and a level of betrayal we dare not even consider.

If far too many of us are skeptical, if not cynical, already, where will we find ourselves if even the idea of truth is inconceivable?

The (perhaps) harsh reality is that truth will always be there – and we will always need it – whether we ‘like’ it or not. Truth will prevail as rumors and opinions fade. As Shakespeare put it in The Merchant of Venice, “Truth will out.”

Your local newspaper – perhaps the smaller the better – can only afford the truth. Lies and rumors work for your local gossip or sensationalized website – but for your local and independent newspaper, truth is the only thing that matters. Loss of credibility and reputation would be the death of a local paper.

Local and independent newspapers may be a necessary and irreplaceable forum for local opinion, but even then, truth and fairness should be an intended goal.

Your voice, or the voice of your local news outlet is only as reliable as the information it is based on – and nothing is more valuable – or enduring – as the truth.

I ask my students which is more likely to be a reliable source of truth – a journal with an editorial board, a hundred year legacy and a reputation to protect or a ranting guy in his mother’s basement?

Anyone can invent – or spread – crazy conspiracy theories. Writing, research and documentation takes time and real work. That’s the difference.

We work hard for what we have put together. We are not willing to lose it all to score any easy political points.

Don’t believe the easy myth of a monolithic blob called ‘the media’ – every media outlet, every writer and photographer captures what they see and what they confirm.

We are not part of a great system – we are your neighbors. We see and know what you tell us and what we see and encounter for ourselves.

And we care, far more than you might imagine, about the world in front of us and the world we will hand off to future generations.

In short, we care about the truth because we care about you.