Editor's View: Local papers important in an era of fake news

I remember the first time I realized that local newspapers mattered, to me, personally.

I was living in Jasper, Alberta, and the town’s awesome community paper that for so long had brimmed over the top with quality content was cut in size, and much of the space that had held hard breaking news (for an idyllic mountain town of 5,000 people) and enthralling community stories was filled with advertising.

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I was enraged. In retrospect it’s comical to think about how naive my anger was. I didn’t understand that the vast majority of the paper’s income came from advertising and that business move was probably the thing that has kept the paper going strong to this day.

It was that paper and the fine journalists that worked at it that made me want to become a journalist myself. I knew, having seen those stories cut from the page, how important they were, and how badly I wanted to be one of the people telling them. 

The thing is, I didn’t yet know how to become that person.

About a year later, I was sitting at a bar with the editorial team of a daily paper in Calgary. I was an outsider looking in and these people were heroes to me.

The editor brought up the topic of citizen journalism - the product of the people who were once known as the audience playing an active role in collecting, reporting and analyzing the news by whatever means they have.

As an aspiring journalist who wasn’t yet formally published, I loved the idea.

As a practicing journalist with seven years of experience in the age of Twitter and – ugh – rant and rave Facebook pages, my opinion has changed.

Local newspapers and the professional reporting that they contain are important now more than ever.

On a large scale, we live in an era of “fake news.” On a smaller scale, we live in an era of social media. Flin Flon Post It can sure bring a community together one way or another, but it doesn’t exactly attempt fair and balanced reporting. 

Don’t get me wrong – reporters everywhere mine social media for story ideas on a daily basis. The public sharing of information is important to our little newsroom. We’re always on the lookout for a hot tip.

But once we find that proverbial gold nugget of information, we go to town investigating it. As credible journalists, we go about gathering sources and looking at the information it from different angles in an attempt to provide you with more, balanced, better news, so that you can go about your week well-informed. 

It’s credible journalists who bring you the latest through your local community newspaper – a source you can trust.

This week and every week, newspapers matter now more than ever. 

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