National Newspaper Week: Fighting the mistrust of media

By Shane Nicholson 
Managing Editor 

Ask anyone, they’ll tell you: newspapers are dying. The news media bears some agenda or carries the water for X or Y. People distrust the media. In fact, a recent Gallup poll showed that only 32 percent of Americans “trust” the media, down eight points from 2015.

But what is the media in 2016? Is it newspapers on the racks in the library, or your preferred AM radio station? Is it the local or national blogs you’ve bookmarked to read every morning, or the cable TV news station on at your favorite after-hours watering hole?

That’s the problem: what anyone’s definition of the media is doesn’t fit the model of another’s. The media has diversified and splintered into thousands of ever shrinking and ever more niche-driven landscapes and markets.

You used to simply consume the news, which came from a mostly broadline style and voice no matter where you got it from. Now, you can surround yourself in a world of like-minded individuals in just a few seconds. These echo chambers of opinion have shattered the trust in the media at large.

As we mark this National Newspaper Week, media conglomerates continue to consolidate their hold on regional and local news outlets across the nation. People will tell you all the time about how newspapers are dying; what they won’t mention is how fewer and fewer corporations control more and more of those papers. And those news corporations have created echo chambers onto themselves.

Those corporations, instead of bettering their product through investment in its core function, have chosen to slash newsroom budgets, to consolidate operations in offices outside the communities they serve, to pull the media further away from its home.

Many news companies could hardly be called news companies anymore. Some provide consulting services. Some buy and sell real estate. Few still treat the newsroom and its staff as their most important asset.

And the funny thing is, people consume more news now than they ever have before. News is everywhere, not just in the pages of newspapers or on the 6 o’clock newscast. Living in this modern society means that you are bombarded with and interact with news more frequently than at any point in history, and that trend is not slowing.

The Rock River Times has for more than a quarter-century stood as an independent and locally owned voice for its community. We have told your stories – told the stories of this community. We have told you about the events that have shaped Rockford and its neighboring communities, and we are still doing that today.

We are still here to report the news, whether through our own work on record-making natural disasters, state budget crises and corrupt government officials, or via a select group of contributors and partners whose content we disseminate through the pages of our newspaper and website. We are still here to publish your opinions and to give you an outlet to tell our 45,000-plus readers what your organization is doing to help improve this community. We are still here to provide you with news that is important to you and your neighbors. We are still a voice that many in this community trust.

Myself, I still trust the media, because the media is not some overreaching all-inclusive entity. The media is made by the individual people who do the work, who tell the stories and capture the images that shape our world. The media is not a handful of TV networks you dislike; it is a collection of employees at outlets that, if they abide by the ethical guidelines of this profession, still provide a service of the utmost importance to their cities or states or regions or entire nations.

The staff at The Rock River Times continues to uphold those principles every day, and we have worked to make the news we report more accessible to this community. We have invested in improving our paper for our readers, bringing new voices into our ranks to tell the stories that matter most to you.

We have invested in improving our website, giving The Rock River Times one of the fastest and easiest to use websites of any newspaper in the country, ensuring those stories can be easily accessed by thousands of readers on computers and tablets and cell phones.

And we have continually supported local programs and organizations that benefit Rockford and the surrounding area, from the arts to education to the environment.

Whether you trust your media or not, that media should still provide for you. While corporate media outlets continue to slash budgets for news operations in the chase for increased dividends funneled to distant executives, the staff of The Rock River Times continues to work for and live in this community. And as we note the passing of another National Newspaper Week, we will continue to tell the stories that matter to our readers.

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