Editorial roundup: Views from around Georgia

Valdosta Daily Times: Newspapers serve communities with trustworthy reporting

Imagine communities without newspapers.

Who would hold government accountable?

Who would keep an eye on taxpayer dollars?

Who would stand up for free speech and defend the public right to know?

Newspapers reporting real news have never been more important or more valuable to readers and communities.

This week, newspapers across the nation recognize National Newspaper Week and a time for us to talk candidly about the importance of accurate reporting, watchdog journalism, strong editorials, comprehensive public notices and a free, open public forum that can be easily accessed by readers in more ways than ever before.

In print, on digital sites, via laptop, desktop and mobile devices, through SMS or social media, newspapers across the nation continue to be the leading source of reliable information in all of the communities they serve.

In a world of bogus news reports spread on social media and repeated attacks on the media, it is important for the public to know the difference between legitimate reporting by credible sources and all the noise on social media.

Here are some of the reasons your local newspaper is the most trustworthy source for news and information:

• Newspaper newsrooms are staffed with real people — people you know — reporters, photographers, editors — gathering the news, conducting interviews, covering meetings, attending events, writing, editing, fact-checking and making sure every day you can trust what you read.

Newspapers rely on recognizable sources. Quotes in the articles you read are attributed to real people and can be easily verified.

Newspapers work hard to stay away from single-source reporting, giving readers context and balance.

Newspaper websites have legitimate URLs ending in .com or .org extensions, listing contact information, the names of staff members and the media organization’s leadership team on the website.

Newspapers correct mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes at times, but there is a big difference between an error and intentionally and knowingly publishing a false report because of some political or social agenda. Spurious websites, blogs and social media do not correct errors. They thrive on them.

In the U.S., newspapers have a long and important legacy of holding the powerful accountable, defending the First Amendment and advocating for government transparency.

Democracy is protected when the newspaper provides checks and balances as the Fourth Estate of government from city hall to the courthouse to the statehouse to the White House.

Newspapers are committed to the neighborhoods, cities, counties, states and coverage areas they serve.

Straightforward news reporting and thought-provoking commentary give a voice to the voiceless and empower the powerless. Newspapers hold government accountable because at our very core we believe that government belongs to the governed and not to the governing.

Get your news where real, legitimate, trustworthy news reports have always been found: Your local newspaper.

Brunswick News: State should fix policy on informing public about spills

What the people don’t know won’t hurt them, right? True or false, it appears to be the thinking of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

Case in point: a recent jet fuel spill at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. At least 700 gallons of the fuel found its way into the Flint River at the end of last month. It wasn’t the first time either. There have been other spills, some involving thousands of gallons.

No one warned residents downstream in the past or last month what might be mixed with fresh river water passing their homes and communities. They found out, though. Having a sense of smell will do that. Some reported a “kerosene” like odor. Seeing cleanup crews at work in the Flint confirmed their suspicions. Dead fish offered another hint.

But only after inquiring did they learn the source of odor.

Communities that depend on the Flint River for drinking water also remained in the dark about the spill until curious citizens began making inquiries. One shut down siphoning operations until the threat passed.

The state agency did nothing wrong by being mum. It was only following policy, a policy that says it is not required to announce the spill or make it public. It hadn’t in the past, and residents and communities found out just fine on their own over time.

Considering the frequency of spills and other similar accidents across this 159-county state, maybe Gov. Brian Kemp, the state legislature or the Environmental Protection Division, or even all three, should consider a new policy, one that requires the government to notify the public when foul things are headed their way and could pose a major or minor threat to health and safety.

The agency could manage this without breaking a sweat. A simple email blast to media in affected areas would amount to an 180-degree turn from current policy. The media can advise the public, as well as pass along any advice or recommendations “experts” might have in regards to a spill.

Not informing the public is a flaw in policy, but one that can be easily corrected by a government that puts people first.

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