Phyllis Britt

Phyllis Britt

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Aiken Standard is observing National Newspaper Week with a series of guest columns.

This is National Newspaper Week. In a time when so many people get much of their news from TV or the internet, the importance of newspapers seems, at least on the surface, to have diminished.

But what would life be like without our local newspapers?

A former managing editor of the Aiken Standard once said there will be a place for newspapers in this world as long as parents and grandparents have refrigerators.

In some ways, that’s still our bread-and-butter. The Aiken Standard – as well as her sister paper in North Augusta, The Star – is filled will photos of local people doing local activities, photos perfect for cutting out and placing on your fridge.

Historically, newspapers have been the source of accurate, unbiased information on what’s happening locally, nationally and globally. Most local newspapers still adhere to that philosophy. Commentary on what’s happening is relegated to the opinions (editorial) page. But we try to make sure our readers know what’s going on.

Yes, technology has changed how we do things. When I started working at The Star in North Augusta, I had a personal computer in my home. The Star did not. Only in the last 20 years have newspapers moved away from printing stories out in column-width strips of paper, pasting those strips on a newspaper-sized page, then photographing those pages, making negatives and creating plates to put on the press. Since then, we’ve moved to writing, editing and producing pages, and then press plates, on a computer – without printing out a single page, except perhaps for proofreading purposes.

In some ways I miss that.

But has the newspaper world outlived its usefulness? I say no. There may come a time when no one remembers the joy of holding a newspaper in his or her hands, of getting the fresh ink all over your hands as you read. These days you can subscribe to the Aiken Standard without ever having a paper thrown in your driveway. But your local newspaper is still likely to be the best place to learn what’s happening in your community. Nowhere else can you go one place to learn what city or county council is doing, what’s happening with our schools, what community events are coming up, who got promoted, who got married, who was arrested, who died, how the local high school football team is doing, what’s worrying your neighbor, what local churches are doing and much, much more.

Yes, all that information is available online – somewhere. But your local newspaper continues to be the place to find out those things quickly in one place.

In the era of so much talk of “fake news,” your local newspaper also continues as a beacon on what is true in this community. It’s where you can learn what your neighbor thinks and what the editorial staff of the newspaper thinks about local events.

Freedom of the press was so important to our founding fathers that it is part of the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights – along with freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of peaceable assembly and freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances. Newspapers continue to have a critical role in the checks and balances system that ensures our Republic remains free and transparent.

Thomas Jefferson said, “... were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter...”

Newspapers have a critical role in society. The First Amendment assures us that the press will be able to share information and views freely, even if those views are unpopular with our government.

During this National Newspaper Week, please be reminded of the value of your local newspaper. A campaign supported by the S.C. Press Association assures us, “Freedom of the Press means we have the right to publish and circulate information or opinions without government censorship...”

It’s up to us to read that information. So celebrate newspapers this week. Read one.

Phyllis Britt is the former editor of the North Augusta Star.