Not long ago, the T-I printed “A Call to Action,” lamenting the attack from political leaders who market the press as the enemy of the people. I wholeheartedly believe that a free press has and still plays a vital role in shaping both our government and our culture and must be supported and defended as essential to American democracy. But I also believe that today’s press needs to take a long hard look at itself and the ways it has contributed to the current state of civic discourse, hostility, and the exaltation of differences and disputes.
I know you’ve already been scolded for the choice you made to use the unfortunate and tabloid-esque “Council Rejects McGann” headline. But did you find it meaningful that the next week’s letters were a mixture of, not only those that chided you, but expressions of regret for the current state of politics, and appeals for the community to get along? Each of us is responsible for creating changes. But, I believe the editors of a newspaper, by speaking to the public, position themselves as community leaders–not just event reporters and printers of opinion. Your words matter and with them you can educate and inform; you can elevate your readers and community. Or, like the aforementioned headline, you can contribute to misunderstanding, reactive emotions, and petty fighting. If you want readers to defend–and pay for–a strong and free press, you must give us every reason to do so.