By John A. Tures
You need a local newspaper now more than ever, even when there isn’t a crisis. But when there is, it’s a good reminder that it’s better to be prepared than to be caught off-guard. And those who put in the long hours to keep you informed are risking their careers to bring it to you.
At times like this, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, you need information, and badly. But I’m not just talking about the national numbers and claims. You need to find out where it is locally. The national folks won’t always be able to give you a county-by-county analysis, that includes your county, unless it has an unusually high number of cases (like mine — Albany, Ga.).
The more you can learn, the more you discover whether you need to be tested. How did a resident catch it? You’ll also learn when local establishments are open, when they’re closed, if there are special hours for senior citizens, and what are options for you with safe social distancing implemented. You can also find out about that nearby blood drive and what they need, where you can be a hero and save lives.
Think the national publication is going to tell you all that … or the opinion-only site?
But here’s the greatest reason to subscribe to keep the local paper afloat. Many of these newspapers have taken down the paywalls when it comes to COVID-19 stories. That’s right…instead of hoarding the information that’s most valuable to their operations, that could make them the most money, they’re giving it away as a public service.
In my book, that represents true heroism, public service, and sacrifice. I don’t care whether you think journalists and editors are noble or not. The facts on this matter speak for themselves.
And if you don’t think those who work for newspapers are in some sort of peril, well, it’s been that way for decades.
When I was a freshman college student during the last days of the Reagan years, there were at least two major daily papers in every single big Texas city. By the time I went to graduate school, there was only one paper in most of these big cities.
One in four newspapers experienced layoffs in 2018. The unemployment of members of the journalism professionalism continued in 2019, even before the coming economic crisis that is likely to follow. And yet, these writers are willing to lose their careers, to let you know how to be safe.
Isn’t a subscription the least you can do to say thanks?
I know some of you are mad that you read some conservative column or liberal column, in the paper. Write a letter of editor rebuttal. They can’t reject every one of them. And it would be carrying on the tradition of public opinion that led the Founding Fathers to enshrine freedom of the press and speech in the Constitution even ahead of the right to bear arms for a reason.
Imagine 2021, as the economy recovers, and people get back to work, having survived the virus. Will the local paper recover with them?
Will it be there to cover the next disaster, identifying the true heroes from your neighborhood, highlighting your daughter’s graduation, or you son’s exploits on the field, doing a story on your local church, posting about your co-worker’s marriage, your sibling’s local business venture, or letting your grandparents tell their story, passing on their wisdom to another generation? Believe it or not, it may be up to you.
Opinion contributor John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. His work appears frequently on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. Readers may email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JohnTures2.