Guest Editorial: Newspapers are community icons

by David Porter, director of communications and marketing for the Illinois Press Association

Congratulations. By holding this newspaper in your hands [or reading online], you are participating in a strong community tradition that dates back hundreds of years. You are demonstrating that you don’t simply live or work in this community, but that you are a part of it.

The local newspaper is the cornerstone of a community. This is where the community congregates, so to speak. It’s where we record the daily history of the town, discuss the issues of the day, shop for new items and peddle our used items. It’s where we learn about what’s going on at the school, at city hall and in our neighborhoods. It’s where we track who was born, who passed on and who won the game last night.

The newspaper starts out as a large, blank roll of paper. While reporters, photographers and editors do the work of writing the news and placing it on the pages, it’s the community itself that fills these pages. As the pages are printed, the newspapers are sliced and folded and prepared for delivery.

Then an amazing thing happens.

It’s as if the paper becomes one giant roll again, wrapping the community together. From customers in the salons and barbershops to the diners in the restaurants to the students in the classrooms, everyone has access to the entire community through the pages of the newspaper.

That’s not to say we all hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.” While there is great joy within these pages, the newspaper also serves as a forum for dissent. It’s a resource for discussion and a catalyst for debate.

The newspaper is as much a community icon as the local schools, the banks, the parks and the library. Any time a community loses one of these institutions, it loses a part of its identity. So, thank you for reading the newspaper today and preserving this rich and rewarding tradition.

Next week is National Newspaper Week in America, and we are proud to be here representing and recording our community.