Making The Case For Newspapers

The purpose of writing this series of articles has been to stimulate discussion on how we structure our public government. When you live in a county with a declining population with some municipalities and many school districts suffering a very serious decline, it becomes incumbent upon citizens to begin thinking about restructuring the way we conduct our public business. It is not enough to just peck away at the periphery of things and tread water. We need to change, and change is hard.

Whether writing about it will help resolve anything, I do not know. But, I do believe that writing is better than just talking about it. I am a believer in the written word. I’m not much of a believer in instant media. I’m from the old school. I don’t like TV, I think that the Internet has generally become a “dumbing down” process, and I have no interest in social media. I don’t do Facebook and I have no interest in tweeting. I am an old pencil-and-paper guy who likes to read the newspaper. So let me make a case for it.

Contemporary media, in my experience, is all about thinking less and boiling things down into a 60-second (or less) time slot. With electronic media, we don’t spend much time discussing things in a real or rational way. (“Get to the point, or don’t bother me!” is the mantra of today’s media.) Also, because we have so many choices, we tend to select media outlets that agree with us, not those that challenge us. The exception is the newspaper. Though it is becoming more “online,” a newspaper still takes the time to write in paragraphs and columns, and it prints various points of view. I am partial to it.

I especially like the local newspaper – including this one. A friend of mine used to say: “Every morning I get up, read The Post-Journal, and look at the obituaries. If my name isn’t there, I go to Moon Brook and play golf!” Think about that! This small body politic is still small enough that reading the obits is important. Our name may not be there, but we probably know someone who knows someone who is on the obituary page. It is still possible to understand our community, the people in it and the news affecting us all. Thus, I hope that whatever writing and thoughts I have generated may be cause for people (including our elected officials) to make better-informed decisions.

I have spent some time in these articles discussing the state of public education in this county. It is a very important topic. I hope that the fate of our children does not totally become defined by cellphone and “texting” communication. I hope that there are still English teachers out there teaching composition and insisting that students write essays and produce term papers. If so, newspapers will have a future.

Newspapers have another quality which sets them apart – they are a repository of history. You can go to the library and still read them on microfilm. You are not limited by the “number of hits” found on Google. In many cases, you can also go online and search past history as recorded by the newspaper.

One of the great reporters of this newspaper (who is no longer with us) was Manley Anderson. Growing up around here, his name was synonymous with The Post-Journal. Reporters changed a lot at the newspaper, but Manley was always there. As a kid, I still remember my father saying: “Manley Anderson gets it right. He knocks the top off the hills and fills in the valleys when it comes to the news. He can’t be bamboozled. I don’t always agree with him, but he tells it like it is.” What Manley did so well during the decades he reported for this newspaper, was tell the story the way it was so that informed people could make good decisions. The “headline grabbing” and easy information tendencies of today’s internet media don’t provide the kind of depth and insight of a news reporter like Manley Anderson.

A minister friend of mine once stopped subscribing to this newspaper because he didn’t like some of its editorial views. “Are you crazy?” I said. “How can you understand this place we call “home” without reading it. It is impossible!”

I still believe that. And, I will continue to pick up The Post-Journal every day and read it. Until, of course, I find my name on the obituary page. In the meantime, my hope is that others will continue to keep reading (and writing) and challenging this community on how best to proceed in our body politic. The newspaper provides a forum to do that.

A Chautauqua County resident interested in analyzing public policy from a long-term perspective writes these views under the name Hall Elliot.