It has been over 30 years since my family sold the daily newspaper it had owned for 84 years. Still, I have printers ink in my blood. I was involved with management of this newspaper for over 20 years. In the negotiations before the sale, the buyers promised to continue operations much as it had been. We had about 150 employees, were recognized by the industry as having the most penetration of our market over any other paper in the country, and made a good profit to boot.
That all changed. The cuts began almost immediately. I was still the publisher in name, but that soon came to an end. Within about 6 months of the purchase, I was out……. some are in and some are out.
To this day, I carry with me what I believe are inviolate principles of journalism. The first is to tell the truth and the complete truth. It is not the place of a “news” organization to editorialize when reporting the news. You would not know that now particularly with the electronic media. I cannot tell news from opinion most of the time. The second is to be the conscience of a community. That is, look out for your readers, look over the shoulder of politicians and those in government, and promote good things among the people.
Things changed from the old days. In the middle of the 20th Century, there were almost 2000 independent family owned newspapers in this country. This changed in the last quarter of the Century. Independent newspapers were bought out by newspaper chains. One reason this happened were the adverse estate tax laws. Newspapers had to be sold to pay inheritance taxes. Turned out this was not good for the owners or for the county.
In the old days, when owners lived in the same community as the newspaper, profit was not always king. There were intangible values that became as important once profit was at a reasonable level. The owners put back into the community in terms of time, talent, and money. It was more like family taking care of each other. Markets were more local rather than national.
The USA has suffered a loss. The “Fourth Estate” is not what it once was. Thomas Jefferson said, “Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe”. It should be added that the press must be both “free” and “unbiased” for all to be safe. We are not there now.