GUEST COMMENTARY: The importance of a local newspaper

Published on Tuesday, 7 January 2020 20:12
Written by Harry N. Mazadoorian

The front page of the January 1, 2020 Herald was devoted to a poignant and thought provoking statement by the publisher of the goals and aspirations of our local newspaper. For those who didn’t see it, it should be sought out and carefully read. It says a lot about the values in the communities served by The Herald and how a genuine hometown paper can promote and preserve those values.

The newspaper business is not for the faint of heart: It is a difficult and challenging enterprise. Each year the headwinds of publishing become stronger and fewer and fewer tailwinds provide needed support. Changing lifestyles and rapidly evolving technology turn readers to other sources for learning about breaking developments in the news.

We sometimes take our newspapers, especially local newspapers, for granted. Some of us have been reading The Herald for decades upon decade. It has provided a stabilizing presence in the midst of turmoil and instability. The paper has a great history and has been a vital part of the fabric of Central Connecticut. Its roots go back to the 1880s. Within its pages are contained the virtual history of Central Connecticut, through wars, worldwide industrial dominance and financial depressions.

Its publishers were people of commitment and foresight: Vance, Weld, Brown are all names indelibly etched in the list of local leaders over the years. Throughout its existence, it has employed numerous prize winning writers, editors and staff. It is impossible to name them all.

However, the presence of the paper has never been guaranteed and indeed there was a time when its future seemed bleak and the lights flickered. Thanks to the vision and persistence of the current publisher, Michael Schroeder, a major effort was made to breathe new life into the Herald. And it worked! Surely the paper today is not the same paper started by Mr. Vance as nothing ever stays quite the same. But today’s paper is as relevant to the communities it serves as were its predecessors almost a century and a half ago.

According the Yale Book of Quotations, the great journalist Walter Lippman once wrote “The newspaper is… the bible of democracy, the book out of which a people determines its conduct. It is the only serious book most people read. It is the only book they read every day.”

The same source tells us that Thomas Jefferson put even a finer point on the importance of newspapers: “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.”

Our community is blessed with a number of major “pillars” which have supported its people for many years. Among these are several fine hospitals, Connecticut’s flagship State University and an unparalleled art museum. So too is our local paper, The Herald, one of our major pillars providing a strong foundation to the entire region.

The pundits tell us that all politics are local and thus our paper allows us to learn the nitty gritty ins and outs of local and statewide politics. But it offers so much more, including well presented news on significant community happenings, incredibly good coverage of local sports and relevant opinions from both civic leaders and ordinary local citizenry. Nor are the contents limited to local issues as the paper contains a wealth of stories on national and international matters as well as up to date and easy to read information on financial markets.

Of course, the paper has its limitations and shortcomings and cannot be all things to all people The important thing, however, is that the publisher and staff continually seek out suggestions for how to make the paper better, a request that was reiterated in the front page January first issue.

So thank you Mr. Schroeder for the fine front page piece on January 1. You are absolutely correct: The Herald is doing a lot to support the community and to raise awareness of vital issues.

Thanks for keeping the torch of local journalism burning.

In turn, the community should realize how fortunate it is to have The Herald in our midst and do all we can to support it and keep it thriving. Submit a story about a local event, express an opinion in a letter to the editor, write an op ed piece, or simply give a copy of The Herald to a friend who isn’t a subscriber so that they can see what they are missing.

While the right to a free press is guaranteed by the Constitution, the continued existence of a free press can only be guaranteed by the readers and subscribers who support it.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Editorials, Letters on Tuesday, 7 January 2020 20:12. Updated: Tuesday, 7 January 2020 20:14.