Even though COVID-19 has, according to reporting from Kristen Hare at the Poynter Institute, forced the closure of at least 70 newsrooms across the country, McPherson County is welcoming another player in the local news game.
I’ve long believed the Canton and Galva communities deserved a dedicated news outlet.
That’s because communities need local media. It’s the only place residents can get news that directly relates to their everyday lives.
Also, journalism is key for a democracy.
It is why journalism is considered the Fourth Estate, right after the three branches of government. The role of journalists is to provide a watchdog role of government and provide important information to the communities they serve.
All news is important in small communities. Even the briefs sharing how “the Smith family got together with the Johnson family for a cookout” serve a purpose.
It may not be Earth-shattering information, but it keeps the community connected. There is a social value of community newspapers.
This is why I love journalism and have made my career center on the media.
I am a former weekly newspaper editor, and I am now a journalism educator pursuing a doctoral degree that will allow me to study journalism at new levels.
Despite the idea of “fake news” being so prevalent in our polarized society, true journalism is anything but fake.
The local newspaper is the lifeblood of a community. It gives the answers to the questions people are pondering.
Instead of trusting the likes of unreliable social media feeds, people can read the local newspaper and be confident about what is going on.
Without a local news outlet staffed by professional journalists, the local school board or city council can do whatever they want with taxpayers’ money because no one is looking over their shoulders.
Journalists help keep elected officials accountable and ensure public business is done in broad daylight and not in the dark.
Local journalists are also part of the community.
They celebrate the collective wins and mourn the losses along with their neighbors. Journalists care, and they want what’s best for the town.
Sure, sometimes they may have to report on the negative happenings, but it isn’t something they look forward to.
It’s their job to keep people informed — good or bad.
And that’s what I try to stress to my students.
Every story isn’t going to be award-winning, but it is still worthy of coverage.
If it is important to any segment of the audience, perhaps even more so for the marginalized individuals, then it is worthy of being reported on.
Journalists must give a voice to the voiceless and not cede that role to faceless social media algorithms.
The computer codes don’t know what is important. The journalists in the communities they serve do.
With an informed citizenry comes an engaged citizenry.
Civic engagement is crucial for communities. People need to take part in the democratic process.
The technology we now have available to us can be helpful, but as Robert D. Putnam found in his book, “Bowling Alone,” technology is more likely to divide us and mute our civic engagement.
That means we need to support community media, such as the Santa Fe Way.
Welcome it to town and celebrate its presence.
If we don’t take more steps to help preserve the journalism organizations we have, we may end up losing something we will miss dearly in our local communities.
Todd Vogts is a native of Canton, a resident of McPherson County, and an assistant professor of media at Sterling College. He can be contacted with questions or comments via his website at www.toddvogts.com.