In praise of print during National Newspaper Week

By Bobby Bryant, Editor,

It’s been a bad year for newspapers. Again.

President Trump has continued to paint all the mainstream news media as public enemies, dispensers of “fake news,” and the media have continued to paint him as a fake president.

In June, a gunman attacked a newspaper in Maryland, killing four journalists and a staffer before being arrested. It turned out that he’d been feuding with the paper for years over an old story, but for many, it was part of the whole anti-press environment.

In July, the corporate owners of the New York Daily News copied Thanos, the villain from “Avengers: Infinity War”: They snapped their fingers and made half the Daily News’ newsroom staff vanish. (It wasn’t quite that easy, but you get the idea.)
For the print press, the news is almost always bad these days, as the Internet and social media keep eating away at the idea of finding out the news by holding a newspaper in your hand and reading it. So why am I writing this?

Because it’s National Newspaper Week (Oct. 7-13). And because I am the new editor of the News & Press, Darlington’s hometown newspaper since 1874. (I checked the date by looking at the sign outside the front doors.)

Former editor Melissa Rollins left to take a job with a Florence school district, and I replaced her effective Oct. 1. For me, it’s something like Fate: I am a Darlington native, and my first byline was on a high-school news column that I wrote for the News & Press in the 1970s. The famed N&P editor Dwight Dana was the first newspaper editor I ever met.

I worked for The State newspaper in Columbia for 35 years as an editor or writer until I was laid off a year ago (the effects of that pesky Internet again; The State, like nearly all dailies, has shed most of its staff members and has focused more intensely on its online operations). But I didn’t give up on newspapers. You shouldn’t, either.

This year’s National Newspaper Week is the 78th annual recognition of the service of newspapers and their employees. This year’s slogan is “Journalism matters. NOW more than ever.”

Jim Zachary, editor of the Valdosta (Ga.) Daily Times, puts it this way: “Beyond the noise of the Beltway and the daily vilification of national media outlets are community newspapers serving cities, counties and regions throughout the U.S. Your local newspaper is far from being The Fake News.

“Your local newspaper is most definitely not The Enemy of the People. In fact, the paper is the eyes, ears and voice of the people.

“The people who work down at the paper are your friends, neighbors or maybe even your relatives. They are dedicated men and women who work hard every day to inform, educate and entertain you.”

Newspapers used to be a staple of everyday life. My parents subscribed to the Florence Morning News; my grandparents subscribed to The State. Every week or so, they would swap that week’s worth of newspapers. By the time all the coupons and Billy Graham columns and recipes and Dear Abbys had been clipped out by my mother and grandmother and my favorite comic strips had been clipped out by me, we had used pretty much every part of the newspaper, the way Native Americans used pretty much every part of a slain buffalo.

“The paper” isn’t an absolutely crucial part of the food chain anymore. You don’t need it anymore to find houses or cars for sale or to find jobs that are open or to find out what’s on at the local movie theatres. It’s on the web. But newspapers are still part of that web of information. They are the original form of journalism. And journalism matters, now more than ever.

Author: Rachel Howell

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