Newspapers should serve as community advocates
Editor’s Note: In the interest of full disclosure, we should note the Harlan Daily Enterprise is owned and operated by Civitas Media, the parent company of The Hazard Herald.
We were encouraged last week when reading the Harlan Daily Enterprise’s editorial page. On it was a call for the newspaper’s readers to write in and express their ideas about how to best improve the economy of Harlan County, where unemployment is among the highest in the state.
That’s a dialogue more newspapers in our region should be having not only with their readership, but with the region’s leadership. It is our responsibility as the local news media not only to provide a clear picture of what’s going on in our communities, but also to lead a call for action to better our communities. That’s what editorials are for.
Frankly, not enough of that is happening across the region.
Harlan’s editorial reminded us of a similar piece in The Hazard Herald way back in the 1920s in which every week the paper noted its platform for a better community. In those days, Publisher Bailey Wootton was advocating for an adequate water system, paved streets, and a fire department. Though our needs today have changed, the role our newspapers should play hasn’t.
Like it or not, we have a forum from which we should advocate on behalf of the people that make our jobs possible in the first place. It is not only our job, but today’s publishers and editors should feel a responsibility to do so. Most of us, after all, were born in Eastern Kentucky; all of us live here.
We won’t always have answers, and certainly we won’t always have good ideas, but at least they will be ideas that can serve to further the conversation on how to improve the quality of life in Eastern Kentucky. Certainly, with a declining coal industry and unemployment inching upward across the region, more discussion and more ideas will only better our chances of turning around what has been a dismal few years.
Despite what many media outlets like to report, newspapers are still relevant today, whether online or in print. Holding up a mirror and being willing to discuss what’s wrong and how to right it only increases that relevance. We urge our fellow editors and publishers to take a good look and decide if there’s more we can do to begin a discussion that puts us on a path to a more stable and prosperous region. We think there is, and we hope you will agree.
Every county in this region has a newspaper. It’s as good a place to start as any.
— The Hazard Herald
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