Newspaper work is more than just a job

First Posted: 4/3/2009

When you think about it, 129 years is a really impressive figure. The sheer amount of time involved is impressive in itself, but its even more significant considering all the events that have occurred from 1880 to 2009.
The United States has had 26 presidents during that period, engaged in two world wars and other major conflicts and endured at least one Great Depression (not counting the economic predicament were in now).
Transportation has evolved from horses and wagons to automobiles and jumbo jets, and astronauts have been to the moon and back as part of countless space missions.
Computers and other wondrous inventions also have been developed and medical science has led to the eradication of such diseases as smallpox, while the right to vote was granted to women and African-Americans.
And all along the way, The Mount Airy News which is now celebrating its 129th year in business has been there.
Like the world around us, this newspaper has undergone its share of changes since 1880, progressing from a weekly publication that originated as The Yadkin Valley News, which later had its name changed to The Mount Airy News.
Indeed, this newspaper, along with being the oldest business in town, actually is older than the city of Mount Airy itself. That was acknowledged during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners Thursday night when officials discussed plans for the upcoming 125th anniversary of Mount Airys incorporation by the state Legislature. That occurred in February 1885, some five years after this newspaper published its first issue.
Like the city, The Mount Airy News has survived and progressed since then. It eventually was published twice a week and later three times weekly. In the early 1980s, the newspaper became a five-day-per-week publication and its Sunday edition was added in 1988.
Then, in 1998, The Mount Airy News switched to a morning paper, with its Saturday publication originating earlier this decade. Throughout the past 129 years, various other newspapers have come and gone here, yet the News has remained.
I am proud to say that I have been a part of the great history of The Mount Airy News for 22 of those years (including two separate tours of duty), but realize I am but a tiny cog between all those fine newspaper people who came before me, and those who will emerge after.
All of us do share something in common, especially when considering an old saying that journalism is the first draft of history. When people work for a newspaper, especially a small-town publication such as The Mount Airy News, they are privileged to play a role in recording the daily history of their community.
That includes chronicling its tragedies, its victories, its dreams, its setbacks a reflection of all that it represents, from the joyous occasions of marriages and births to the other end of the spectrum on the obituary pages.
Something that I always try to impress on younger co-workers is that working for a newspaper involves more than just showing up, putting in time and collecting a paycheck. Along with the responsibility we have to our employers, there is the obligation we owe the citizens, our readers, to try to do our best to keep them informed and look out for their rights and needs.
Simply put, newspaper employers MUST care about their community in order to put up with ridiculous deadlines and work schedules to perform in such a way that continually makes a difference to the readers. There is really no way to do such a job halfway.
Many big-city newspapers are faced today either with folding or shifting to all-digital formats with Internet editions. I tend to believe that many of their troubles have resulted from a failure to maintain that all-important connection to the communities they serve.
On the other hand, there is every reason to think that the market for small-town community newspapers will remain viable. It should stay that way as long as there are people committed to giving readers what they cant receive from other mediums in an increasingly crowded media world.
Tom Joyce is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at [email protected] or 719-1924.

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