This week is the 77th National Newspaper Week, which recognizes the importance of newspapers to the communities they serve.
The fact that his newspaper was already 69 years old when the first National Newspaper Week was celebrated means that this newspaper has been an important part of this community for longer than any of us have been alive.
I’ll admit that I’ve usually been too wrapped up in whatever news I was covering at the time and other duties at the paper to spend any time participating in the observation of National Newspaper Week. I was too busy doing the things that make this newspaper important to our community to spend any time talking about why it’s important.
I’m making time to participate this week because I think it’s more important than ever.
There are now more ways than ever for people to get “news.” We’re inundated with reports from social media, countless websites, talk radio and 24-hour television news stations. Some of these are more reliable than others.
The sources of news reports have increased tremendously in the 11 years since I started working at this newspaper, but the most important thing is not.
The Yazoo Herald remains the only news organization devoted to this community.
We sit through government meetings – everything from city and county board meetings to school board and Public Service Commission meetings and break down the news that’s important to our readers. We comb through public records seeking information that matters. We interview local law enforcement about crime stories and sometimes sit in courtrooms to cover trials.
That may not sound like exciting work, and often it isn’t, but the news that comes from that work is often information that actually affects your life more than the national news or latest political drama that often dominates the news elsewhere. I’m talking about things like whether or not your taxes are going up this year and why, what kind of local ordinances are being enacted or whether your electricity rates are going up and why.
Even the Jackson television news reporters rarely visit Yazoo City unless there has been a murder or something sensational.
Our coverage has often led to positive change when it comes to local government. There have been jobs that were being neglected that started getting done because we covered the issue. There have been bad ideas that were reconsidered because we shined a light on what was happening. We have good relationships with our local officials, but they know that we’re going to do our best to report the truth – even if it hurts.
That’s why we often have readers who come to us when they feel they have nowhere else to turn. They know that this newspaper can give them a voice, and they know that the people in a position to help them read this newspaper and realize that a lot of other people in the community will be reading too.
Our paper spends just as much time working on things that may not seem as important in the grand scheme of things, but are still important to our readers. You can find everything from church programs to local fundraisers in the Community Calendar or find out who’s getting married or who welcomed a new baby on the lifestyles page.
We celebrate academic accomplishments and successful career moves of local residents. We’re on the sidelines of Friday night high school football games with a camera in one hand and a pen in the other. We are constantly seeking out positive feature stories about people in Yazoo.
Our staff takes all of these responsibilities very seriously.
In recent years we’ve added the responsibilities of maintaining a website that is regularly updated and keeping our social media pages full of useful and interesting information. At the same time that those new duties arose it has gotten harder to keep up with the responsibilities we already had. Some of the major advertisers we once had no longer exist or have been become part of corporations that don’t understand the value of having a strong newspaper in the communities where they have a presence or that we remain the most effective way to get their message to the people they most need to reach. We’ve had to learn how to do more with less, and I’m proud to say that our staff has risen to that challenge.
During this National Newspaper Week, I want to take the time to thank Yazoo for its continued support. We don’t take it for granted, and I promise that we will continue working hard to produce the best community newspaper we possibly can with the resources we have to work with.