As I was Saying: Be your Community Forum

National Newspaper Week will be observed Oct. 3-9, 2021.
I hope you get this column before that … if the mail service in your area is running normal, maybe you will. Of course, our definition of normal and the USPS’s definition of normal is kind of like Bill Clinton’s definition of the word “is.”
This 81st annual National Newspaper Week is a recognition of the service of newspapers and their employees across North America and is sponsored by Newspaper Association Managers.
“Community Forum” is this year’s theme. The Relevance Project and Newspaper Association Managers have created a content kit that contains promotional ads, editorials and the like, all suitable for you to publish in celebration of National Newspaper Week. Additionally, there are also resources to help each newspaper become the Community Forum in its community. Additional resources are available at no cost at www.relevanceproject.net.
Most of all – please make it local by editorializing about your newspaper’s unique relevance. This can be about your duties as the government watchdog, your role as a community forum and coverage of community events, publication of timely public notices, etc.
Suzanne and I have worked hard to keep our papers relevant in our communities. In Gladewater I think we do a really good job. There’s hardly a thing that moves that we aren’t a sponsor of or we don’t have signage promoting our paper. At the Gladewater Rodeo we have a 5-foot by 30-foot sign of our newspaper’s nameplate above the announcer’s stand. It’s pretty impressive. And yes, it’s expensive. But it tells the people we are a solid player in this community with deep roots.
I have a saying – and I’m sure I stole it from one of my former publishers over the past almost 50 years – “It’s not real until it’s in the newspaper.”
What I mean by that is people can Facebook the heck out of an issue with the city or county, but until it is in black and white on that sheet of newsprint it’s just hot air. Once it’s in print things start to happen, because it’s tangible. You can hold it in your hand and it has lasting power. And oftentimes you even get to see a politician clinching the paper in his fist as he tries to explain what he said in the story that everyone just read.
I know, I know … some of you are going to say those days are long gone and newspapers don’t have the influence they once had.
I disagree.
Whether your newspaper gets to your readers on newsprint or digitally on a smartphone, it’s got power. Don’t’ let the naysayers tell you differently.
Gladewater has a bad pothole problem. So, Suzanne and I post a “Pothole of the Week” photo and cutline on the front page about once a month. People often call us and tell how they called City Hall for months about that same pothole and nothing happened. But the day after it came out in the paper the city crews were out there patching it.
Power of the Press – that’s not an outdated phrase. It’s a responsibility we all possess and must use for the people in our communities and our country.
Our local food pantry was almost broke a few years back. We found out and wrote about it and showed the empty shelves. Within days of the story coming out, the shelves were full and the bank account again was in the black. We continue to feature our food pantry monthly and that keeps people in the know of its needs and the shelves lined with canned goods.
Just last month Gladewater was seriously debating shutting down our city library as a cost savings measure. It had sustained major damage from the February winter storm and would cost at least $250,000 to get it back up and going and the city had many other needs – roads, water lines and such.
We told the city yes, it needs to fix its roads and water lines, but it also needs to educate its citizens and give them a place to gather and learn through remote education and look for employment by using the library’s computers and internet. We fought hard to convince the city the library wasn’t an expense on the P&L, it was an asset to the city. Suzanne worked hard to secure a $50,000 grant. And I have convinced our local EDC — I happen to be the president of the board this year — to kick in a substantial amount to cover what the city’s insurance and the grants won’t.
Without the newspaper sounding the alarm, the citizens would have lost a very important part of our community.
In Lindale and White Oak, while we are there at all events and we sponsor many things, we don’t have the same impact as Gladewater. And that’s simply because our main office is in Gladewater so we are there 99% of the time. I need to work on that. So, as I ask each of you to get more involved in your communities during National Newspaper Week and the rest of the year, I need to take my own advice and get in the car and spend more time at my other towns.
I’m pretty sure I’m preaching to the choir, and that’s good. That means you are one of the main pillars of your community and its moral  compass.
So, during National Newspaper Week please let your community know you exist and are relevant. Show them you are much more than just that building on Main Street. Rattle some cages – you might just change your corner of the world.