Editorial: Nation’s newspapers are friends of the people — and of democracy

Published 11:11 am Thursday, August 16, 2018

Editor’s note: This editorial first appeared in the Salisbury Post on July 31, 2018. 

In case you forget amid the name-calling of national politics, the Salisbury Post and thousands of other newspapers across the country have a long history of serving their communities at the grassroots level. Political winds shift; elected leaders come and go. But the need for news about the world in which you live remains constant.

Consider these areas of local coverage in the Salisbury Post:

Crime and public safety: Short of keeping a police scanner by your side 24/7, the only way to know when and where crime strikes is to follow local news. What happened? Was anyone hurt? Has there been an arrest? What happened in court? Informed citizens want to know about crime and the dramatic life-saving services provided by law enforcement, fire departments, EMS and the rescue squad.

Local government: Post reporters cover virtually every meeting of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners and  Salisbury City Council, as well as many meetings of the nine other town boards in the county. The boards’ actions affect all of the county’s more than 139,000 people. The county budget alone is $152 million, and the Post is the only news organization providing regular coverage of how your local tax dollars are spent.

Schools: “He who opens a school door closes a prison,” French novelist Victor Hugo wrote. Education is the lifeblood of society and our economy. More than 19,000 students attend Rowan County’s public schools. We have several private schools, three colleges and one seminary. The Post covers every meeting of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, reports on the local education scene every day and devotes a section of the paper to school news each Thursday.

Economy: Business openings and closings, trends in local real estate and efforts in economic development are important news stories. Who is hiring? Who won a promotion? What programs might help first-time homebuyers? People need local answers.

Sports: From American Legion baseball to golf tournaments, from high school football to college basketball, the Post lets you know what’s happening on the local sports scene and often profiles individuals who have the self-discipline and talent to excel.   

Arts and culture: Whether your thing is music, theater or the visual arts — or history or trains or roses — you can find information about opportunities to take in local events in the Salisbury Post.

Politics: More than 94,000 people are registered to vote in Rowan County. Only the local newspaper will tell you who all the candidates are, where they stand on important issues and when and where you can vote.

Features: Human interest stories about people’s joys and sorrows often make the most compelling reading. The Post also includes local information on gardening, food and book reviews.

There is much more — health, nonprofits, agriculture, transportation, marriages, divorces, obituaries. And then there’s the important information readers get from advertisers.

Does that sound like the work of the enemies of the people? No. It’s the work of journalists who deliver the information that people need to be informed and effective citizens.

“Friends of the people” is what one person speaking at a benefit concert called the five Capital Gazette employees killed in an attack on their Annapolis newsroom last month. In general, journalists think of themselves as impartial observers — and friends of democracy.