Every Independence Day, I try to write a post that tells friends and acquaintances what I feel about Independence Day in America. This year, my post is a plea to everyone in this amazing country - and, frankly, to any of my friends and acquaintances around the world. Because what I'm about to ask all of you is something that I think is necessary. It's a plea from my heart, asking you all to help maintain democracy in a way that goes beyond love and duty, to action.
Read newspapers that you agree with, read the ones you're pretty sure are wrong-headed. Compare their stories. Continue reading them. Read newspapers from other countries if you can.
Pay for those newspapers.
If you read them online, and there's a way to subscribe to a digital version of those papers, think hard about which ones you think are doing a good job - not necessary the job you like, but a good job - of trying to inform their reading public.
If you read them in hard copy, subscribe. If you can only afford to get weekend delivery, do that. If you can afford seven-day-a-week delivery, do that. It'll be more expensive, but it's worth it to you - after all, you won't have to worry about your access to news dying with a recalcitrant laptop or aging tablet. And you'll have something to line your birdcage with eventually. More importantly, you'll be able to turn a page and find news you hadn't expected, hadn't looked for - and you might learn something important about your world. That's another benefit to hard-copy. When you read online news sources, they tend to conform themselves, via algorithms and other marketing magic, to what they think you want to read, or hear. Voila, instant echo chamber.
So, yes, if you can, read newspapers, and pay for them.
Most of you know I'm a reporter, so you may assume this is my biased, and slightly panicked, plea to my friends and acquaintances to help keep my source of income alive. Well, of course it is.
But there's also this: this is what The Nation wrote most recently about the public's decreasing access to news that men, women, and children need to know, in order to make informed decisions about what's going on in their neighborhoods, their towns, their counties and provinces and states and nations and world.
It's nothing new, as even the author states. But it's frightening in the extreme.
They call journalism The Fourth Estate. I consider it one of the important pillars of democracy, along with informed voting, and continued informed involvement in democracy before and after voting. In fact, if you don't know what is happening around you - what businesses, governments, individuals, corporations, courts, et al, are doing to and for you - you cannot vote in an informed fashion.
Newspapers are dying. And I'm not sure that live media is doing much of a job providing the news that people need in place of newspapers. Reading heavily targeted news that agrees with what you believe (something of which I'm equally guilty) will not tell you what's going on in this world. Newspapers, general circulation newspapers - small, medium, large, weekly and daily, neighborhood and national - are what will help.
They need money to keep going. So pay up. You're helping pay for democracy.
Will keeping newspapers alive keep news alive? Probably not, in the long run, or at least in the way we once thought of news and newspapers. But it will help. And I can't think of a more patriotic thing to do on this Independence Day, than to check your wallet, figure out which two or three newspapers to support (remember to make one of them one that you don't agree with, but which you think has half-way decent reportage), and put your money into a subscription.
Nor can I think of anything more patriotic for Canadians, for Brits, for Australians - for anyone whose country has a half-way open society - to do. We don't have the excuse of personal danger when we subscribe to good news sources that many folks across the world have. Let's use that freedom.
Thank you, and here's a little something from Robert Reich that says other good things about democracy.
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