What is news?

Some journalism texts have suggested it is not news when a dog bites a man, but it is news when a man bites a dog.

That would suggest news is simply the unusual.

However, in many cases news is simply the usual events that occur within a community.

While news can be the extraordinary, it can also be quite ordinary.

Some people want the news to be the positive, vibrant, exciting, proactive things that are done in a community.

Those things are certainly news.

If those were the only things that happened in a community then that would be all the news.

However, that is not the world — or the county — that we live in.

In our world — and county — good things happen and bad things happen.

Both are news.

News can simply be defined as what happens.

It can include what happens in government meetings, what happens at schools and churches, what happens in business and industry or what happens in a dark alley in the middle of the night.

Legitimate, bona fide newspapers work every day to be the eyes and ears of a community and then strive to balance each publication with a cross-section of the things that happen.

In our connected world of social media, websites and niche publications it seems like nearly everyone wants to be in the news business.

While these social media sites and niche publications may boast some “news,” most generally what they lack is news judgment.

Some are totally sensational in their nature.

Not all news is sensational.

In fact, most news is not sensational.

Some appear to be little more than extortionists, eg. “Busted” type publications that request payment from individuals wanting to have their names and mugshots removed from a website or future printed products.

Some want to paint an unrealistic portrait of a community suggesting that everything is always a bed of roses.

Some simply want to use their publication, social media or website to promote their business or personal agenda.

While there may be a place for most of those things, they can hardly be relied upon as a community newspaper.

A community newspaper informs the community about crime, public policy, education, business and government.

It also provides a slice of life and celebrates its community.

A newspaper worth the paper it is printed on is a government watchdog and an open forum for its community, taking seriously its role as the fourth estate, advocating for open government and defending the First Amendment.

When local officials hide the public’s business, a solid community newspapers digs to find out what officials are up to.

When local governments send out press releases that are very superficial and simply tout the positive things that officials want the public to see, a good community newspaper looks beyond the prepared statement and finds the real story.

When local government courts new businesses to the community, provides hefty incentives, enters into public-private partnerships, a good community newspaper works hard to find out who their local government in in bed with and what it is going to cost taxpayers.

When a city, the county or a board of education ratifies a budget and provides only highlights, burying large amounts of money in nebulous line items labeled “miscellaneous,” “other services,” “contracts,” etc., a reliable community newspaper will look for the devil in the details and crunch the numbers.

It’s one thing to want to be a newspaper, it is quite another to accept the responsibility to serve a community in all those ways.

— Editor Jim Zachary

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