By Sam Burnham
ABG is not specifically a news site. What we do is commentary. But much of what we publish is either inspired by or in response to stories from the news. This week, I had my eyes opened about one vital source of news. This awakening came from a most unlikely source.
On my Twitter feed I encountered this video from Last Week Tonight. This is not a typical source for ABG and the video gets a bit seedy at times but the video details the importance of newspapers in America today. It's fair to say that newspapers are struggling today and it's easy to dismiss print media as a relic of the past. But just as John Oliver says in the clip, these journalists are the front line in holding our elected officials accountable for the effective and ethical execution of their offices.
Then this article appeared in the Rome News-Tribune in which Severo Avila details the need for consumers of news to hold their sources accountable for content that is honest, serious, and reputable. He encourages people to check up on reports they find on the internet and determine if a source is a true news source or just a biased propaganda machine.
Georgia has a storied history with newspapers. Probably the best known is Henry Grady who began his career as a writer for the Rome Courier before its bankruptcy. Grady went on to become the editor of The Atlanta Constitution, the "Spokesman of the New South", and even the namesake of Grady Hospital. Governor Hoke Smith owned The Atlanta Journal. Margaret Mitchell wrote for the Journal from 1922-1926. Joel Chandler Harris worked as a writer for Grady's Constitution. Ralph McGill was a voice for the Civil Rights movement during his tenure as editor of the Constitution. We have to mention the legendary work of Lewis Grizzard at the Constitution. And I've found a Georgia hero in Bo Whaley, whose writing graced the Dublin Courier-Herald.
That mostly sounds like a treatise on the history of The AJC but those are the names we recognize statewide. Keeping in mind that we discuss the idea of decentralization a lot here, I don't know why it never occurred to me that we need to decentralize our news sources. The national news is never going to give you a full story on topics that are pertinent to your hometown, especially if you aren't in the metro areas. The top-of-the-hour news blurbs on your local radio stations aren't going to cut it either. If we are going to have strong sources for local news we are going to have to support the Macon Telegraph, The Savannah Morning News, The (Milledgeville) Union-Recorder, The Rome News-Tribune, The Pickens Progress, etc. We have to expect these outlets to cover local crime and politics as well as reporting on local "feel good" stories. And we need to hold them accountable for being honest and telling us the truth.
Besides, the papers are staffed with people who are passionate about our community or people getting started in the business. Henry Grady started in Rome at a paper that filed bankruptcy. He ended with a statue in Downtown Atlanta, a hospital and a high school named for him, and also being known as one of the most important voices in Georgia and The South. This very site can trace its roots to a classroom in a now defunct high school where a handful of diverse teenagers produced a student paper of which, to this day, I am proud to have been a part.
Newspapers aren't dead yet. And if we are to survive as an informed and engaged populace we really need to support them. So add newspapers to the list of local institutions that we support and recommend.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire