monthly conversation experiment #8

What’s good about 2020?

By LAURIE STUART
Posted 1/6/21

You’ve got to admit, 2020 was a doozy of the year. In fact, it has upended everything we thought was relatively stable.

Basic health, for one: You cannot simply go about your day and assume …

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monthly conversation experiment #8

What’s good about 2020?

Posted

You’ve got to admit, 2020 was a doozy of the year. In fact, it has upended everything we thought was relatively stable.

Basic health, for one: You cannot simply go about your day and assume that you are in a safe and healthy environment.

Basic government, for another: Never in our wildest dreams would we have imagined that Electoral College state votes would be challenged by a group of senators.

And then there’s the global pandemic, a deadly virus, which is mutating into stronger strains.

Add onto that our economy, which has tanked. Jobs have been lost. The number of families facing food and housing insecurities is large and ever-growing.

It’s a mess that we have to claw our way out of, and claw our way out we will. We will use our imagination and our wits to figure out another way.

Media around the world and around the nation will write this first version of history within their pages and their websites. The good news is that in this frenzied news environment, there is a shift in how media may cover the next part of history. According to news reports, there is a lot of soul-searching going on in the media about how to cover the mendacity, or the untruthfulness, of the political landscape, on all sides.

According to Politico’s editor-in-chief Matthew Kaminski, he saw “a lot of American journalism heading down the road to a European model, where the leading privately owned brands, overtly or not, belong to an ideological or political ‘team.’”  He sees an opportunity to go in the other direction, “not to pass judgment on the motivations or outcomes, but to explain both with authority.”

It’s an idea that is catching on.

In a January 3 column, former BuzzFeed founding editor- in-chief Ben Smith, now a New York Times columnist, wrote that independent journalists are returning to “just-the-facts-ma’am reporting.” Through newsletters and daily blogs, enterprising journalists are explaining the why of the news cycle, educating their readers on how power works and giving people a lens into understanding politics as opposed to simply labeling it.

Not surprisingly, the news of community newspapers has consistently remained fact-based. With a reliance on school and governmental reporting, accounts of local sports competitions, and a plethora of events and community announcements, local community newspapers have faithfully reported on their communities to the best of their ability and finances.

And community newspapers need to and can do more.

There is a space for local papers to step into at this time of political and ideological division. It requires carefully listening to readers and getting their take on what is happening in their community in order to reflect back to them a variety of opinions and perspectives.

There is a unique opportunity for newspapers, particularly small community papers like the River Reporter, to provide facilitated online and in-print space where people with diverse political and civic perspectives can share ideas with each other and affect community change. This concept of community-service journalism is being championed by entities from Google and Facebook to the Local Media Association and journalism foundations.

And while the turning of the calendar from 2020 to 2021 does not change the immediate outcome of basic health, smooth governmental transition or a tanked economy, it does give us the opportunity to recommit ourselves to a fresh start and the trying out of new ideas toward a particular intention.

In the year ahead, the River Reporter will continue to ask you to weigh in on how what is happening on the national or world stage is affecting your community life. We’ll be reaching out to you for story ideas, your opinions, your reflection and your perspective.

So, that’s one thing good about 2020.

As ideological divides grew deeper and more profound, community newspapers have found an important role, and a recommitment to play a larger role in facilitating dialogue about important community issues and values.

We do it together, with your help and participation.

Why not start today?

Send us your short reflections, a sentence or two, poems, and artwork in response to the prompt: “What worked for you in 2020?” Email copyeditor@riverreporter.com by Friday, January 22.

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