Recognizing a paper’s value in ‘cancel’ era

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  • Recognizing a paper’s value in ‘cancel’ era
    Recognizing a paper’s value in ‘cancel’ era
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Last night, two of our reporters covered meetings by the Fredericksburg Independent School District Board of Trustees and the Fredericksburg City Council. As usual, they were the only media present. We livestreamed the school trustee meeting on our Facebook page, hoping to let the public take in what we were witnessing. We don’t charge the district for this and hope to upgrade our technology to eventually have better capabilities. I listened to the proceedings online, like a lot of other people.

On the meeting agendas were some hot-button issues. Read about these in the front section of the paper.

I point this out in the face of criticism for my column last week, questioning our president’s character. On the following two pages, you can read the critics, which I gladly publish. In America, we are free to express ourselves and editors can and should expect some kickback when they disagree with people in their community. As publishers and editors, the last four generations of men in my family have had to endure their share of criticism for some issues.

What is disturbing is the “cancel culture” we can see regarding local news entities. Even though we had 50 other pages last week of community news, features, business stories, advertising and more, the voice of the opinion pages — clearly marked as “Comment” — sometimes gets people to cancel all the other value we bring to informing our community. We didn’t have mass cancellations after my column, but there has been an overall trend of people not supporting their local paper as they used to and getting all their news from the unprofessional and chaotic social media pages.

So, we’re asking anyone who has canceled us to give us another shot and weigh what we do for the town against the occasional disagreeable commentary.

Last week in our paper, we had the chance to honor Helen McDonald, who helped with the growth of the National Museum of the Pacific War. We also covered for posterity the last-play win for our Billies football team over rival Boerne. Those young men will remember that the rest of their lives.

We were there for Harper’s day of events, had a story on the county elections department and promoted art events, like First Friday Art Walk, theater and the now-online Texas Rangers Heritage Center fundraiser. We also had our usual listing of music shows in local clubs. We promoted Stonewall Volunteer Fire Department’s fish fry, always a great and worthy event. We published business news and each week we run informative and insightful columns from Penny McBride of the Chamber of Commerce and Ernie Loeffler of the FCVB.

You can read Phil Houseal’s always-entertaining-andquirky take on what he writes about. You can read about local churches holding events and ministering to we locals. We published a story about a Hill Country group working to prevent veteran suicide. And we had news on the activities of the police and sheriff’s departments.

We published a history column about the coolest old building that was a domino parlor from Mike Barr. We had agricultural news about the pecan crop, and news for amateur gardeners and homeowners about common plants and pests. We also had a movie review, a locally produced recipe column and information about what college courses are available at a local campus.

And, importantly, we provided a way for people to sell goods and services, homes, advertise jobs. Lastly, we helped people pay tribute to lost loved ones.

None of that comes easily or cheaply. We invest a lot to bring you a great roundup of news and happenings in Gillespie County. It costs our readers less than $1 a week to subscribe and support our efforts — less than a bottle of soda a week.

We also warn of leaving the news strictly to social media which Lord knows is tons more divisive and disagreeable than any other medium.

This is National Newspaper Week (Oct. 4-10), and hopefully it’s a chance to reflect on what we do for the communities we serve. We really do think of it as a public service, even a calling.

And in truth, we don’t think of ourselves as just a “paper” anymore. We have growing use among our digital edition, our website pages, our video and, yes, our social media presence. But we also have expanded to magazines and other digital publishing options.

Society needs journalists and we need media institutions. Other than the three branches of government, the only other check for our democracy named explicitly in our Constitution is the free press.

So, as I told one of my letterwriting critics, “even though we differ on issues, I still think highly of you and hope you have a good week.”

We’re not the enemy and never have been. We are the (sometimes only) information source in this town covering the things our citizens need to know.

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ken@fredericksburgstandard.com