Two weeks ago, we published a letter to the editor from a reader in response to Ray Appen’s column “Should we save local journalism? Do we care?” In it, Ray, our company’s founder and longtime publisher, muses about what role local news plays in our lives and wonders where anger for the press is coming from.
A reader in Johns Creek responded to Ray’s question and the two of them engaged in a friendly back and forth over email and ultimately the reader agreed to submit a letter to the editor, which we then published.
In it, he talks about how the news of his youth is missing in today’s media world. That it is not representative of his concerns and void of information important to him.
In summary, he believed that it is not that a newspaper’s readers don’t care about its newspaper, but that its newspaper does not care about, or recognize, all of its readers’ perspectives.
Not too long after we published his letter, I got two phone calls, back to back. Both calls began the exact same way.
“I never do this, but…”
The first caller just had to call me and commend the author of the letter that appeared in our newspaper that week. The caller said the author had nailed it by calling Ray out for his high handedness and clear biases, that the media is generally self-riotous and disconnected from the plights of everyday people, and the sooner it gets off its high horse, the sooner it can save its dying industry.
I thought that he was going to ask for the author’s phone number to thank him, but he didn’t, and we ended the conversation with a commitment from me to take the letter seriously and listen more, talk less.
Not 30 minutes later, I received another call. “I never do this, but…”
This time the caller just had to tell me that he’d just read the letter that we published and thought the author was a kook, that he is sick and tired of the media bashing and that if the reader would stop for a second to think about the source — his hometown community newspaper featuring news about local high schools, city council meetings, boy scout troops and the like — he might think twice about the absurdity of his assertion.
He commended me for publishing the letter, despite the fact that the simple willingness to do so pokes a few holes in the claims the author made in the first place.
In summary, he told me to keep my head down and keep doing what we’re doing. That its appreciated and of value to the community. I appreciated both calls.
We take very seriously our responsibility to cover news that is important to our readers. I also believe that sometimes we cover news that is important to our readers before they know it is important to them.
Don’t ever hesitate to call me and tell me we need to do a better job. I might not always be able to give you the answer you want, but I’m always listening.