Why news matters

Michael Tortorich
Michael Tortorich is a reporter for The Gonzales Weekly Citizen. He can be reached at reporter1 @

The death of a newspaper anywhere in the world should signal a collective shudder to people everywhere, especially those who believe even casually in such concepts as freedom, liberty and justice.

We can’t afford to not know what we don’t know.

In other words, if we don’t have people going out and reporting on their communities and the world around them, information will cease to flow freely. Information is currency. There are things we want to know, and things we need to know.

John Lennon sang, “you don’t know what you got, ‘til you lose it.” Every time a newspaper stops its press, we all lose. Some of us lose more than others.

Two major city newspapers have shut down recently: Denver’s 150-year-old Rocky Mountain News and Seattle’s 146-year-old Post-Intelligencer. Meanwhile other major newspapers, like the San Francisco Chronicle, are struggling. Others, like the Detroit Free Press, are cutting back.

The people in and around those major American cities now know less. Voices that were once there have been silenced. The mirror that was once held up to their communities has been shattered.

We certainly have not eradicated corruption and all of the ills of society. Who will shine the light on these things? Who will dig up the dirt?

There are those who welcome the death of newspapers, arguing that the free market has spoken. People don’t want to spend their money on news. They claim that news is abundant on the Internet now.

While it is true that the Internet is a wonderful tool for serving up news hot and fresh, not all of it is created equally. Think about how much of it is actually useful and accurate.

Bloggers can bring a lot to the table when it comes to news, but not all of it is fit for consumption. Plenty of what gets passed off as news on the Internet is nothing more than fiction and smears.

We have to ask ourselves: Do we want a reliable, complete story, or do we want a single, unedited line on Twitter?

We should yearn for truth, not gossip.

We would not do well to instill in younger generations the appreciation of a less-is-more approach to news. Instead we should tout the benefits of a free press in a free society. We should appreciate solid journalism no matter where it may be published, whether it be in newsprint or on a bathroom wall.

Think about it: When you want to know about what is happening in your neighborhood and your region, you turn to your local news, not the endless jungle of blowhards of the blogosphere.

Despite this, enough cannot be said about the benefits of the Internet, but it is not the end all medium for news. Putting ideas on paper is a timeless art. Imagine if we suddenly stopped printing photographs. Even the most brilliant works would seem a bit duller if relegated only to a glowing computer monitor.

The news business is a service industry. Journalists keep track of what’s happening so their readers don’t have to. You have questions, we search out answers.

Ask yourself: Will you miss us when we’re gone?