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From the Editor: Real, local journalism means as much as ever

BY JOHN-HENRY DOUCETTE

PUNGO — Pope Francis did not endorse President-elect Trump. The story about the FBI agent “suspected” in the Clinton email leaks being found dead in a murder-suicide is bunk, and The Denver Guardian, which “broke” that story, is not a legitimate news organization. 

The list goes on.

There are many examples of fake news, much of it partisan misinformation or crafted to appear as though it has been reported, playing to our fears, hopes and biases.

These are stories that are fabricated  – either in part or in sum total. This is not a new challenge, but the rise of social media, the fragmentation of traditional news organizations and a deeply polarized culture has made this sort of thing grow.

Fabrication is lying. Fake news is not news you disagree with or dislike or simply do not want to read, such as a response by a vocal reader on social media seemed to imply after a recent column we published discussed a real incident of racist harassment in Virginia Beach.

Fake news is news that purposefully presents lies as truths.

The goal of journalism, we as news consumers should hope, is accuracy.

A clue to readers that a reporter has tried to report real news accurately is verification, meaning multiple sources – other knowledgeable people or pertinent records and documentation – are sought when facts or information reasonably might be in question. Attribution – plainly saying what the source of the information is – helps the reader understand whether information is likely true, too.

Understanding the signals reporters send to readers can help us judge their work. That includes work here. That’s why, among other things, I sometimes publish the dates of interviews within stories. As certain stories evolve, an interview on Monday may be overtaken by events on Tuesday.

One of the reasons this newspaper exists is because journalism is endangered as a practice that aims to give citizens the tools they need to participate in public life. I value journalism. I practice it because this newspaper has support from advertisers and readers. I hope to continue doing this.

I can’t stop anyone from marginalizing the press, particularly people with power. It’s in their interest to control messages, to hurt critics, to sometimes blame the messengers. But I believe more information is a good thing, even when I don’t particularly like the information. 

I practice with this as a guiding purpose.

If you like this paper, even if it’s only for traditional community features and photos, I hope you will consider the work we have tried to publish about issues other outlets have not. This includes aspects of our light rail coverage, agricultural issues and city government coverage.

But we cannot cover everything.

The Independent News has a forum. You can write essays or columns. I publish letters to the editor.

There is an ethics policy you can review at princessanneindy.com. In our New Year, I ask you to please consider the role of journalism in our public life. Consider what you can do as a consumer of news and information to be informed and support organizations that cover local issues.

If you don’t trust The Independent News or The Virginian-Pilot, start your own news organization. 

If I can do it, you surely can.

This past fall, I began phasing out black and white pages after I changed printers. At the old press, black and white pages were a necessity. No longer. The remaining black and white advertising is being converted to color. The advertising rate sheet, available at the website, will be updated in the near future, though color rates will not change. If you want to support this paper or reach people nearby, advertising here is affordable, and it pays for original, local journalism. 

Thanks for reading.


© Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

The Independent News

2 Comments

  1. I can speak as an ODU student and former reporter of John’s; he means what he says and what he writes This is an honest and truthful paper and I was glad to be a part of it.

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