Unprecedented times

This week, as we put our paper to bed, I glanced at our front page and realized how different things in our industry are than they were last year at this time. 
It is homecoming season, of course, and since we cover three counties there’s no shortage of homecoming royalty pictures. On our front page this week were a young man and young woman from an area high school sharing with the world their joy of being crowned king and queen — but from behind their masks, protecting themselves and others even at that moment. 
Seeing that picture and thinking about those students wearing their masks, along with their photo appearing right next to a story about a rally in Columbus that promoted alleged “cures” for COVID-19, made me think again about our responsibility to our communities. 
No matter where you are on the political spectrum, it is difficult not to agree that we are living in unprecedented times. Nevertheless, it is still incumbent upon us to bring our communities the news — all of it. 
With that lies a greater responsibility come election time — making sure our readers have the information about the upcoming election needed to make informed choices. 
In this election, not only is much at stake for our nation and our state, but for our industry. 
The situation with the post office is not one Texas newspapers can ignore. When you or your staff are doing political interviews, ask  those federal candidates what they will do to ensure the post office is still around to continue getting our papers to our readers in a timely fashion.
Ask those state legislative candidates if they will help stop the erosion of printed public legal notices in Texas that has gone on for years. Whether they are a 20-year incumbent or a challenger, make sure they know the issues important to our industry. There will be a budget shortfall next session. That usually means lawmakers considering the option of including more products and services on the sales tax list. We’ve got to make sure they know that we don’t want to see a sales tax on newspapers sales in this state, and that we are paying attention. 
Ask federal and state lawmakers and candidates about the erosion of public information laws in the last decade. What will they do to protect our right to free access to information from our government bodies? 
A newspaper’s primary function is to provide information to its readers. However, our job is also to protect — both our industry and our readers. 
We protect our readers two ways. First, we protect the industry, to make sure we are around for another generation to provide news and information to those readers. Second, we protect the public by providing valid information. Voters may make whatever choice they desire, but we as journalists provide them the information on all sides so they may make an informed decision about who best will govern them, and who best will protect our industry. 
This election, we must let our readers know what is at stake for the American newspaper. Don’t be shy about letting your readers know you asked candidates about what they will do to protect the post office, to protect newspapers from sales tax, or to protect FOIA laws.
From dailies to weeklies, no matter which party you support, the future American newspaper is on the ballot this year — and every year. 
The cattle industry, the healthcare industry, the pharmaceutical industry, big agribusiness and even bars make sure their candidates know what they want to see once they are sworn in. 
We can do that, too. Through our editorial pages, and through our coverage, we can make certain our readers know the security of our industry is among the many things they will cast their vote on this November. 
Let’s work together to ensure that our lawmakers and readers know this election is important to your local community newspaper.