For National Newspaper Week, it is important to recognize that the free press is still at risk and could go extinct if we don’t act now to protect it.
Newspapers remain by many metrics, the most trusted news source in many parts of the globe — but political forces are working diligently to undermine the right to have a free press in a free society.
The rise of authoritarian populism throughout the world has put the people’s right to know at risk and without candid, loud and financial support for local journalism — our right to free speech could be slowly eroded, starting with the end of local newspapers.
While many parts of North America — particularly throughout the interior United States — have become media deserts, it is important to recognize that communities still value local news and without local journalists, the story of small communities will not be told.
Each community is comprised of local governments, social groups, sports teams, entertainment troupes, charities and each of these groups have vibrant, important stories that need to be shared not only for the present — but for posterity as well.
Local newspapers ensure that communities have access to the present and past, all while being at the vanguard when it comes to information that needs to be known right away.
This is why it is important for citizens to stand up to would-be tyrants who try to convince the world with dime store rhetoric that the reporter posting photos from a recent high school volleyball game is in fact a subversive antidemocratic force or to put it more specifically, “The enemy of the people”.
Local news is, in fact, an avenue that prevents demagogues and protofascists from invading our democracy because it is local news that champions fairness over partisanship; facts over rhetoric; proof over persuasion; and objectivity over subjective want — all of which are the tools of politicians with authoritarian ambitions.
It is true these lofty ideals are the gold standard that are not always met by journalists, but it is important to remember that without local news — no one in the community would be held accountable.
It is accountability that we must hold our leaders to and local news reporters are the first responders when our democracy is threatened by corruption.
Newspapers will continue to protect democracy from tyrants — all while ensuring that the unique and valuable stories of each community is told.
Local news is of course fallible, but it is of the utmost importance that democracy and the right to free speech is upheld and local newspapers are ground zero for protecting against the slow rise of authoritarianism.
Toadd Vaughan is an Alberta-based Black Press editor