These days, it seems appropriate to remind readers the importance of newspapers to American society. For genealogists and family historians, newspapers are particularly valuable as sources of local information. Only in the pages of the newspapers in small town America can we learn of the local gossip, the travels and travails of our ancestors. Today, I want to acknowledge the value and importance of newspapers in greater society.
I have been informed that National Newspaper Week is coming up. Unfortunately, I feel as though I am writing the eulogy when I say that newspapers in the United States have played a vital role in the development of the country. It is not an exaggeration to describe the newspaper industry as the fourth column of defense in the promotion and advocacy of democracy in the world.
If you look back over time, newspapers in the United States have played a role in almost every major event in history. Beginning with the publication of the Declaration of Independence, when there were only 13 newspapers publishing in the country, and continuing up to the most recent coverage of the war in Iraq, or the recent Presidential election; news coverage has had an impact on the United States and world events.
At times, this influence has not always been positive; thinking back to the period of Yellow Journalism and the beginning of the Spanish American War. But, newspapers and editors have learned from their mistakes and more often than not, journalists have had a positive effect on United States events and history.
The bad news is that newspapers are slowly dying. The internet as the latest source of information, coupled with the sparseness of advertising, is slowly spelling the demise of paper copies of information. This is truly unfortunate. But the many causes of this death and the ramifications to American society are appropriate for another time. Today is simply a day to acknowledge the value of newspapers, the hard work of journalists and editors, and their influence on society. To everyone in the profession: Thank you.