Your jour­nal­ism has never been more im­por­tant

Porterville Recorder - - OPINION -

“...Were it left to me to de­cide whether we should have a gov­ern­ment with­out news­pa­pers or news­pa­pers with­out a gov­ern­ment, I should not hes­i­tate a mo­ment to pre­fer the lat­ter.”

—Thomas Jef­fer­son, third pres­i­dent of the United States of Amer­ica, 1787

Not ev­ery U.S. pres­i­dent has agreed with Jef­fer­son about the im­por­tance of jour­nal­ism, of course. Cana­dian jour­nal­ists bat­tle for press free­doms ev­ery day, too.

But as jour­nal­ists, we share a pas­sion, a mis­sion, a quest.

We search for the truth as watch­dogs of the peo­ple elected and appointed to serve our cit­i­zenry.

As jour­nal­ists, we’re trained to keep a pro­fes­sional dis­tance, to make sure we don’t be­come part of the story.

But while we’re not the story as re­porters, the im­por­tance of our work, our craft is very much the story – es­pe­cially as Pres­i­dent Trump calls jour­nal­ists the “en­emy of the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

Our theme is right on the mark: “Jour­nal­ism mat­ters. NOW more than ever.”

While we’re not the story, the need for our jour­nal­ism has never been more im­por­tant to the peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties we serve.

It has never been more im­por­tant for jour­nal­ists to ask ques­tions, scour pub­lic records and in­ves­ti­gate malfea­sance.

It has never been more im­por­tant for jour­nal­ists to ex­pose cor­rup­tion, chal­lenge as­sump­tions and shine a light on sex­ual mis­con­duct.

As jour­nal­ists along the Mis­sis­sippi River in Wis­con­sin, we’ve asked in re­cent months what chem­i­cals were con­tained in a 10-mil­lion-gal­lon spill float­ing down a trib­u­tary. We’ve asked about a dras­tic in­crease in over­dose deaths. We’ve asked why no crim­i­nal charges were filed in a boat­ing ac­ci­dent in which two peo­ple died.

You have your own sto­ries to tell about the ques­tions you ask and the jour­nal­ism you pro­duce.

Make no mis­take: Your jour­nal­ism mat­ters.

It’s cru­cial that we con­tinue to re­in­force the im­por­tance of our role in so­ci­ety.

And we’re not just watch­dogs. Our jour­nal­ism en­cour­ages our read­ers with pos­i­tive sto­ries that truly re­flect the fla­vor of our com­mu­ni­ties.

Rest as­sured, your jour­nal­ism has never been more im­por­tant.

This col­umn is be­ing pub­lished in ob­ser­vance of Na­tional News­pa­per Week and was pre­vi­ously writ­ten on be­half of the Wis­con­sin News­pa­per As­so­ci­a­tion for jour­nal­ists in Canada. Rusty Cun­ning­ham is ed­i­tor of the La Crosse Tri­bune and ex­ec­u­tive ed­i­tor of the River Valley Me­dia Group.

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