Brian J. Allfrey: Why do we need a community forum | Chroniclers
Brian J. Allfrey
I don’t know what I expected our country to look like in 2021, but I certainly didn’t expect it to be so fractured and so bogged down in hate.
In 2021, America is divided on a multitude of issues, and most of our society is determined to widen that division rather than close the gap. We have technology and media platforms that not only have created this divide, but continue to drive a wedge between us.
These concerns are a driving force behind the theme of National Newspaper Week – The Community Forum, Newspapers as the Foundation of Our Communities.
We are polarized on every issue because of the information we consume every day. We have completely lost our ability to see another point of view. We no longer accept differences of opinion, debates, disagreements or dissent. Any division in thought is met with anger and hatred. This is in total violation of the concepts that created America.
America was founded on the ideals of freedom, tolerance and acceptance. All men were created equal to fundamental rights. People of diverse backgrounds and beliefs worked together to frame these ideas into a new land with freedom and justice for all.
Now we all know our country is not perfect. It never was and never will be. These ideals have not always applied to everyone, but the beauty of our country is that it must continue to evolve.
The 2000s saw the advent of social media networks, heralded as a breakthrough in human interaction and communication. Unfortunately, it is used to further divide the American public. Social networks run on algorithms designed to show you things that matter to you, which is why they are so entertaining and addicting. However, many entities exploit these platforms to divide us.
No matter what the subject, people attack each other in the most vile and evil ways. There is no discussion or civil discord, just polarized ideas of right and wrong. We say things to each other that we would never say in front of someone. We treat each other without dignity or class. The technology and platforms with which we entertain ourselves are destroying the fabric of our society.
We must become civilians again to each other, treat each other with dignity. We need to listen to the point of view of others. We won’t always agree, but we don’t have to. Differences of opinion are not bad. There can be some truth to both sides of an argument. The problem is very rarely in black and white but usually in the gray area in between. We need to understand that both sides of an argument can be correct and stop fighting, hating and bullying those who disagree with us.
The first step is in our own mind. We have to watch the media and the propaganda that we consume. Our minds consume these ideas of hatred and polarization. We need to move towards a civil discussion and treat everyone with respect. To do this, we must regulate our media consumption. We need to move away from the ideological echo chamber of the “news” entertainment and social media around us.
Local newspapers are the original community forum, disseminating essential information, holding government accountable, and engaging the community in civil discourse.
We can spark a wave of change, but we have to start locally. Our government and our leaders reflect our values. If we want them to change, we have to change. Be part of the community forum. Subscribe to your local newspaper today, in print or online. Support local journalism, get involved in activities that strengthen your communities.
Brian J. Allfrey is executive director of the Utah Press Association.