Local newspapers offer community forum – Daily Local
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. My oldest son was 1 on September 11, 2001. The wave of patriotism that followed that day gave me hope for the America my children would inherit.
Fast forward 20 years, and that hope was overtaken by fear. The fear that our country has become so polarized that it cannot survive. In 1858 Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand. Never in the history of America has this quote been truer. Lincoln spoke of the divide between free states and slave states. 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.
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. They made compromises for the good of all.
Unfortunately, we feel like we’re as far off target, as far from a perfect system as we’ve ever been. How did we get there and how are we evolving.
The 1980s gave birth to 24 hour news channels. These evolved into entertainment television programs with multiple networks now fighting for viewers, ratings and advertising dollars. They each cater to a subset of viewers with a distinct political lean. They provide us with the information they want us to have, and most of us are unaware that we are consuming propaganda rather than facts.
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 work using 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.
Social media has gone beyond connecting people to this country’s most polarizing platform. Think about the negativity, hate, fear, and bullying in your flow. No matter what the subject, people attack each other in the most vile and evil ways. 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. There can be some truth to both sides of an argument. For example, masks are a huge argument in our communities right now. Is it possible that both parties are correct in some parts of their argument? Could it be that masks are helping to slow the spread of disease, but at the same time hamper student learning? The problem is very rarely in black and white but usually in the gray area in between.
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 that surrounds us. We need a new community forum for news, entertainment and connecting with our community.
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. Be part of the community forum. Subscribe to your local newspaper today, in print or online. Support local journalism and participate in activities that strengthen your communities.
Brian J. Allfrey is executive director of the Utah Press Association. This article was written on the occasion of National Newspaper Week.