The real news is that this is Na­tional News­pa­per Week

Calhoun Times - - FRONT PAGE - Dick Yar­brough

This may come un­der the head­ing of home cook­ing but this is Na­tional News­pa­per Week, some­thing we should both be cel­e­brat­ing. Me, be­cause I get a chance ev­ery week to tell you what’s on my mind and you, be­cause you can tell me whether or not you agree. It is the news­pa­per that makes it pos­si­ble. Don’t try this in Iran.

I backed into this gig al­most 20 years ago when I wrote a guest col­umn af­ter the Cen­ten­nial Olympic Games of 1996 about how to­tally un­pre­pared the blowhards in the City of At­lanta were for this world-class event. I was a man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the At­lanta Com­mit­tee for the Olympic Games and saw the city’s in­ept­ness up close and per­sonal. I spared no ad­jec­tive in let­ting read­ers know what I thought of the city’s per­for­mance, or lack thereof.

That col­umn caused quite a stir na­tion­ally and led to more op­por­tu­ni­ties to voice my opin­ions and more out­lets in which to do so. Sev­eral years ago, I was told that my words reach more than a half-mil­lion house­holds weekly in Ge­or­gia. I will take their word for it, but the only house­hold that re­ally mat­ters to me is yours.

Not that we al­ways see eye-to-eye. Strong opin­ions beget strong re­ac­tions. The fun of this col­umn is to keep ’ em guess­ing. A re­cent let­ter writer in Marietta lumped me in with a group of “right-wing” colum­nists. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that a reader in mid­dle Ge­or­gia thinks I am an “Obama bed­wet­ting lib­eral.” Why ruin her day?

As sure as God made lit­tle green ap­ples, news­pa­pers will be around long af­ter I am gone. Their for­mat will no doubt evolve in the ever-chang­ing world of tech­nol­ogy, but not their role as your watch­dog. If they — and we — don’t keep an eye on the do­ings of our gov­ern­ment from Washington to city hall, who will? Anony­mous sources on the in­ter­net? Self-ap­pointed “ex­perts” in the bl­o­go­sphere? I don’t think so.

The theme of this year’s Na­tional News­pa­per Week is “Real News­pa­pers … Real News” and is ob­vi­ously a re­sponse to the “Fake News” ac­cu­sa­tions cur­rently be­ing hurled around about the news me­dia. I find it ironic that peo­ple will as­cribe all sorts of sin­is­ter mo­tives to the news me­dia but will take un­sub­stan­ti­ated garbage on the in­ter­net as gospel. You should see some of my mail.

I have per­haps a unique per­spec­tive on the news me­dia. I have been a part of the me­dia for al­most two decades. Prior to that, for sev­eral decades, I dealt on a reg­u­lar ba­sis with me­dia at all lev­els from the tele­vi­sion net­works to ma­jor news­pa­pers, news mag­a­zines and lo­cal me­dia.

If the me­dia — and I am speak­ing al­most ex­clu­sively of the na­tional me­dia — are guilty of any­thing, it is hav­ing a se­ri­ous case of self­im­por­tance and be­ing out of touch with the Amer­i­can pub­lic. They don’t fake the news, they just think they know more than we do. A lot of it is an “In­side the Belt­way” men­tal­ity and a scratchmy- back re­la­tion­ship be­tween news peo­ple and Washington politi­cians.

Lo­cal news­pa­pers, on the other hand, are where the rub­ber meets the road. We shop at the same gro­cery stores with you, buy our gas at the same ser­vice sta­tions, at­tend the same churches, pay the same lo­cal taxes and have the same strong in­ter­ests in see­ing our com­mu­nity pros­per. Un­like the anony­mous souls in the big city pa­pers who live in a co­coon — re­mind me to tell you some­time about the New York Times ed­i­tor who thought con­tes­tants in the Olympic white­wa­ter raft­ing com­pe­ti­tion were go­ing to use in­ner tubes, I kid you not — you know who we are, how to find us and are in­clined to give us in­stant feed­back on our per­for­mance. That’s not a bad thing.

In my days in the cor­po­rate world, no mat­ter how well I thought I had per­formed my du­ties on be­half of my com­pany and our cus­tomers on any given day, my boss would al­ways say, “Just re­mem­ber that you run for re-elec­tion ev­ery day.”

I never for­got that ad­mo­ni­tion. I have writ­ten some 1,500 col­umns since that first screed in 1998, but I know I still run for re-elec­tion daily. While I don’t take my­self se­ri­ously, I take this priv­i­lege to cor­re­spond with you very se­ri­ously. The real news is that none of this could hap­pen with­out the news­pa­per. That is why I am cel­e­brat­ing Na­tional News­pa­per Week and hope you do, too.

You can reach Dick Yar­brough at dick@ dick­yarbrough. com; at P.O. Box 725373, At­lanta, Ge­or­gia 31139 or on Face­book at www.face­book. com/dick­yarb.

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