Newspapers are more important than ever
The first week of October 1940 was marked by turmoil. Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini met to discuss inviting Spain's fascist government to join their push for world domination, while in Paris the Vichy French parliament voted to ban Jews from most public and private jobs.
Across the pond, President Franklin Roosevelt had broken with tradition (and George Washington's advice) and was running for an unprecedented third term, facing accusations by Republican Wendell Willkie that he was secretly planning to take the nation into World War II.
Against this backdrop of fast-moving events and global instability, the nation's newspaper publishers launched National Newspaper Week, as "a united front to impress American readers with the reliability, integrity and enterprise of their newspapers."
Seventy-seven years later, the world is still in turmoil and American newspapers are still hard at work, helping both print and online readers connect the dots, find solutions to problems and, increasingly, separate fiction from fact.
The theme of this year's National Newspaper Week — "Real Newspapers... Real News" — is apropos.
"A lot of words have been published, posted and uttered recently about fake news and real news and whether Americans have the tools necessary to differentiate between the two," writes Tom Newton, head of the 2017 NNW campaign. "I submit that they do. The tools are American newspapers, dailies and weeklies, printed and delivered to American doorsteps and accessed on laptops, tablets and smart phones. Real newspapers in all their formats are created by real journalists, and that's the key."
In an era when anyone with a smart phone and a Twitter account can send 140 unfiltered characters out into the world, the role of traditional news organizations, and newspapers in particular, are even more important than they were in 1940.
Whether you realize it or not, even people who don't purchase a printed newspaper nonetheless depend on them.
Breaking news alerts come from a variety of sources, with most of the serious, labor-intensive reporting done by traditional newspapers, from the New York Times and Washington Post to the Beaverton Valley Times and The Outlook.
And, for local matters, newspapers are often the first and only source of reliable information. Here are just a few examples from Pamplin Media Group newspapers:
• Last spring, The Outlook broke the story that Southeast Stark Street would be closed for months as Multnomah County set out to improve fish passage by replacing a culvert beneath the roadway. The Outlook was the news source that consistently gave a voice to local business owners who have been negatively impacted by the closure.
• In early September, The Outlook brought its entire news staff together to provide comprehensive local coverage of the Eagle Creek Fire.
• It was December 2016 when The Outlook broke the story that Amazon would build a distribution warehouse at the Troutdale Industrial Park, creating hundreds of new jobs.
• It was several years ago when people living in Sandy were up in arms about a home invasion that had been reported on a community Facebook page. But it was the Sandy Post reporter who set the record straight: The "invader" was a young woman's boyfriend who was sneaking into the house.
• On Feb. 2, The Outlook published an analysis written by the Portland Tribune and InvestigateWest, chronicling unequal treatment within the Multnomah County justice system. The reporting showed ticket-by-ticket, arrest-by-arrest, how African-Americans are charged with everything from pedestrian violations to drug crimes at a rate 3 to 30 times more frequently than white residents.
• The Newberg Graphic broke the story in August of a schism within Friends (Quaker) churches in the region over acceptance of the LGBTQ community. In heavily-Quaker Newberg, that will take the form of churches just miles from each other belonging to two different organizations for the first time in the town's history.
• The Sept. 20 issue of the Madras Pioneer featured a front-page article about the sudden death of the owner of the town's only local funeral home, offering a tribute to a valued community member and a needed reassurance to readers that the funeral home's services would continue.
• A recent edition of the Clackamas Review/Oregon City News, includes news you won't find anywhere else, an investigation into the Clackamas County Elections Office rejecting ballots based on mismatched signatures.
All of these news stories have one thing in common. They represent an incredibly efficient and reliable way of delivering information.
In some cases, the articles required extensive public records work. Each required interviews with public officials or people affected by the news event. And each was reviewed by an editor before getting into print.
Sure, dozens of news sites can tell you the score of the latest Ducks game, and they can give you an alert about some international event, but it's journalists — and usually newspaper journalists — who get beyond the scores to tell the stories.
They use their shoe leather, their training and their deep knowledge of local communities to marshal facts and report the news — real news, that is.