Newspapers have ability to influence outcomes for the better

JACKSON – When my world was a much younger place, my goal in life was to work in the biggest city with the most professional sports teams at the biggest newspaper that would hire me.
Well into my middle-age years, I realize now that goal will never be achieved. And it doesn’t matter. That long ago stopped being my goal.
Now don’t get the wrong impression. This is not intended to be an ode to the young man in “Pink Houses” by John Cougar Mellencamp “listening to a rockin’ rollin’ station. He’s got a greasy hair, a greasy smile. He said, ‘Lord, this must be my destination cuz they told me, when I was younger, hey boy, you’re gonna be president.’ But just like everything else, those old crazy dreams just kinda came and went.”
It’s not like that. The dreams didn’t come and go. The dreams changed. They changed for a number of reasons, but primarily because of family commitments and the realization that Mississippi had always been my home and I had no desire to leave.
But the part of my goals that did not change involved newspapers – my love of newspapers, the ability to look at the front page to see what the top stories of the day are and to go to an editorial page to read the opinions of those with whom you agree and those with whom you disagree.
Newspapers also fit perfectly with two of my interests – sports and politics.
I loved newspapers and I loved sports and politics.
I tried the sports and newspaper thing. I loved them both, but as it turned out I wasn’t crazy about combining them.
In other words, sports writing was not my favorite thing. As much as I enjoyed the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament or an Ole Miss-Mississippi State football game, I decided I would rather watch them without the duty of having to report and write about them at their conclusion.
But being a political reporter, that’s just fine.
And being a political reporter in Mississippi, working for a Mississippi newspaper is just fine, also.
I am convinced that much of the change that genuinely impacts people occurs at the state level. To a large extent, the quality of our schools, our heath care system and even our roads are determined by state politicians, not national leaders.
Just as state politicians can have an actual impact on the lives of everyday people, a newspaper can have a legitimate impact in building a sense of community pride.
It does that not by being a cheerleader, but by being the conscience of the community, by accentuating the positive and the negative. A community gains pride by correcting the negative and making it a positive.
A newspaper can be a powerful influence in that process.
But we are at a point where some are predicting the demise of the newspaper. With the current recession and with the reliance on the Internet for information, there is a belief among some that newspapers are fast becoming a thing of the past, a relic.
In my view, the obituaries are premature. For one thing, I challenge the ability to develop a town or city’s sense of community, of belonging, from a Web site. While the Internet can do a lot of good, I don’t believe building that sense of community pride is one of its strengths.
My goals might have changed, but my belief in and love of newspapers have not.
I honesty believe a newspaper, regardless of the size, can be a good thing that produces noble results.
And I that, I am convinced, is a goal worthy of pursuit.
Contact Capitol Bureau Chief Bobby Harrison at or at (601) 353-3119.


NEMS Daily Journal

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