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Wednesday, 05 March 2014 02:29

Tools to help cope with an uncertain future

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op fr“The less you know, the more you believe.”

– Bono

Quality journalism is a powerful force. I’ve been fortunate to be able to witness that truth often during my career in the newspaper business. I’ve seen stories that helped the afflicted, honored the deserving, and brought down the powerful. I’ve been involved in stories that brought tears of joy to a mother’s eyes and tears of regret from an arrogant leader. I’ve held my notebook in hand and listened to someone who asks us for their trust tell such bald-faced lies it shocked even a jaded reporter.

 

Don’t get me wrong. Although journalism is very meaningful work, there is drudgery in the job. Editing news briefs about Kiwanis Club events or political party meetings is not very exciting work, but in truth I know that those events are just as important to our overall mission as the stories that get reporters salivating.

Journalism is about telling today’s history before it hits the books. In doing that, we shape how the people now in power and the events now occurring will be viewed by those who come after us. Reporters are the all-important middlemen in this transaction, using their curiosity, powers of observation and storytelling skills to mold our knowledge about the world we live in.

The media gets a bad rap these days, and from my perspective much of that criticism is just off base (but that’s another story). Many write off all media because a small few often make some very big mistakes, or because today many news consumers can’t separate opinion from fact. Disagreeing with the “news” as espoused by Bill O’Reilly or Rachel Maddow — and therefore blaming the media — is to not know what really is news. 

I digress, but here’s the real point: if you happen to live in Western North Carolina right now and read our newspaper and others in this region, you’re getting a healthy dose of some of that good journalism that means so much to me. I’ve told people that for years, but you don’t have to take my word for it. The North Carolina Press Association recently held its contest for reporters, designers, photographers, and newspaper Internet sites. Illinois Press Association members judged the contest.

And you guessed it: I’m going to toot my horn about The Smoky Mountain News. Look at all those awards (see infobox), and I’ll be the first to say I’m damn proud of our staff. 

But look at the rest of the list. According to those newspaper folks form Illinois, the best three large community newspapers in the state are from our region: In the General Excellence category, The Mountaineer took first, the Franklin Press second, and we came in third. And look at all the other awards won by the papers that we compete against. It’s an impressive tally. The Highlands and Cashiers papers also took home several awards. The Asheville Citizen-Times and the Mountain Xpress did the same. Those awards can be viewed at the N.C. Press Association website.

Here’s one of my favorite findings from looking through the award list. The two columnists who won for the Franklin Press — Bob Scott and Barbara McRae — are both former journalists and now on the Franklin Town Board. Covering that group is going to be a reporter’s dream.

Make no mistake, we are in fierce competition with the other newspapers in this region for news and advertising dollars. That’s just a fact. At the same time, however, we are a better newspaper because our competitors are also pretty good at what they do. Western North Carolina’s citizens are better off because they have access to quality newspapers. In the end, this entire region benefits because citizens have a better chance to be well-informed and are able to make smart decisions as we wade into an uncertain future.

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

 

2013 NC Press Association Awards

The Smoky Mountain News

First Place

• Community Service

• News Enterprise Reporting

Second Place

• News Enterprise Reporting

• News Feature Writing

• Profile Feature

• Special Section

Third Place

• General Excellence

• Education Reporting

• General News Reporting

• Investigative Reporting

• General Excellence for Web Sites

• Best Niche Publication

Special Award

• Media and the Law Award 

 

The Mountaineer

First Place

• General Excellence

• News Coverage

• Special Section

Second Place

• Editorials

 

The Franklin Press

First Place

• Editorial Page

Second Place

• General Excellence

• Headline Writing

• News Coverage

Third Place

• Editorial

• Lighter Columns

• Serious Columns

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