• 48°

Strong community journalism is essential

The last 48 hours have been a blessing and a curse as I tended to a son with a stomach bug only to come down with the same thing once he started getting better. A curse for obvious reasons, a blessing because it kept me from being glued to the news and a constant stream of stories about President Donald Trump’s first days and the myth of “alternative facts.”

When I decided to pursue journalism, I, like many others, wanted to help people. The job isn’t about regurgitating press releases or only reporting what someone said or did at a particular time and place. In its purest form, American journalism aims to be a collective effort not only to report on what’s relevant to a community but to present that information in a way that helps readers make informed decisions.

You don’t go into this business to be wealthy or loved. And you certainly don’t go into it for the regular office hours. It is a relentless pursuit of the truth balanced against the demands of an ever-changing industry and a rush like no other when a story has the power to change something for the better. At its core, it is a job of service and a job we choose despite the countless times we’re asked why we don’t work in PR or marketing or something, anything, more lucrative.

It’s not easy hearing our president, who continues to debate the size of his inauguration crowd and his unsubstantiated claims regarding voting fraud, say journalists are among “the most dishonest people on earth.” It certainly doesn’t help when his staff reinforces the accusation by lying to the American public and arguing that facts can come with an alternative.

There’s never been a greater challenge for American journalism to hold our elected leaders accountable given the contentious relationship with an administration that uses “fake news” to describe unflattering reporting more often than it does to describe fabricated content. Complicating matters is the effect anti-press propaganda can have when delivered by a person in power. It’s one thing to say journalists make mistakes (we do, for the record, which is why corrections are made publicly to maintain transparency with the public). It’s another to accuse the entire institution of malicious intent when it comes to how journalists do their jobs because that message easily trickles down to the state and community level.

Strong community journalism is essential, perhaps now than ever before, when it comes to informing the public on how decisions made at the state level and in Washington could affect their everyday lives. As we and other news organizations in Mississippi prepare to tackle the state’s most pressing issues in 2017, we must remain firmly committed to that mission, honoring our primary obligation to seek the truth for our readers and the betterment of our communities.

Alex McDaniel is editor of the Oxford Eagle. Contact her at alex.mcdaniel@oxfordeagle.com