Our View: A fair trade in exchange for democracy

October 11, 2018

For many years, there was affixed to one of the bulletin boards in the Post-Bulletin newsroom a photo of President John F. Kennedy reading his stack of daily newspapers in the Oval Office of the White House.

Kennedy, of course, had done some newspaper writing before becoming a politician, and was known to be a voracious reader of newspapers and news magazines. But this wasn’t just a habit with him. Kennedy understood the importance of newspapers to a free society.

Newspapers are necessary, he said in one speech, “to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities ... to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.”

We like to reflect on those words from time to time, and especially during the current National Newspaper Week, which runs through Saturday. We take it as our mission to inform, to provide opportunities for education, to sometimes take the lead in the community, and yes, to once in a while get at least half of our audience riled up.

On a weekly basis, the Post Bulletin receives calls, letters and emails from readers who think we’ve slanted coverage one way or the other. Liberals think we’re too conservative, and conservatives think we’re too liberal. School A thinks we favor School B in sports coverage, and School B thinks exactly the opposite.

That tells us we’re doing our job correctly. Our coverage, whether it’s of a presidential rally, a nonpartisan township board race, or a high school football game, is intended to be right down the middle. We take pride in that.

Make no mistake, these have been difficult years for our industry. But we’re not complaining. Instead, we welcome the challenges and opportunities presented to us.

The same goes for the grief we occasionally take from readers and politicians. We’re equal to the task. Day in day out, we happily set about proving wrong those who say we’re not balanced, that we ignore good news, that we make too many mistakes.

By the way, regular readers know that when we do make a mistake, whether it’s the misspelling of a name or the wrong date on a sports event, we admit it and correct it as soon as possible. That, too, is a part of our responsibility we take seriously.

Getting back to Kennedy, he readily acknowledged that, as president, not all coverage of him was as positive as he would have liked. “I’m reading more and enjoying it less,” he said. But he recognized it was a fair trade in exchange for democracy. “There isn’t any doubt we couldn’t do the job at all in a free society without a very, very active press,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy made those remarks over 50 years ago, but times haven’t really changed that much. A newspaper is still an important foundation of a free, democratic society.

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