Gov. Pillen announces Nebraska Community Newspaper Week
June 15, 2023
LINCOLN – Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen announced Nebraska Community Newspaper Week would be recognized every year in June.
Not to be confused with National Newspaper Week in September, a State of Nebraska Proclamation signed by Gov. Pillen was announced to be recognized annually for the week of June 26 through June 30, 2023, as Community Newspaper Week.
The Sidney Sun-Telegraph is also celebrating it's 150th Anniversary this year.
The proclamation extends to NPA observed organizations and newspapers as defined by Nebraska Revised Statute (R.S.) 25-523, R.S. 63-101 through 63-106, R.S. 1913, R.S. 1943, C.S. 192, C.S. 1929 and Legislative Bills (LB) 1977 and LB 39 under state laws. There are a number of Constitutional and federal laws in which further govern, moderate and protect newspapers nationally.
In recognition of Gov. Pillen's declaration, Sidney Sun-Telegraph Publisher and Editor Barbara Perez said, "People tend to overlook how important local newspapers are and how devastating the loss of them would be."
In fact, according to a report done by Northwestern University's Journalism School, more than 360 local newspapers in the United States turned off their presses, closed their doors and haven't published local news content since just before the start of the pandemic.
The decline began in 2005, and since then, roughly 2,500, or 25%, of newspapers shuttered since 2005 – and post pandemic, another roughly one-third of newspapers are expected to halt the presses by the end of 2025.
As of 2022, there are 211 counties in the U.S. which have no local newspaper.
"The Flint Water Crisis was uncovered and reported by a reporter for the Flint Journal," Perez explained. "Jeffery Epstein was exposed to the world because of a journalist with the Miami Herald."
"Let's not forget Watergate," Perez added. "The world was made aware of some incredibly bad things that were going on so they could be dealt with because of newspapers.
Arizona State University (ASU) Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication released a study earlier this year in January which stated "Local news is in a tough spot – it's still desired by readers but due to funding cuts and consumer reliance on the internet – it's become more difficult for the newspaper industry to deliver."
ASU indicated the rise of self-funded digital platforms operating in a quasi-news capacity continues to work against local newspapers and the best interest of the community. The university attributes this finding to a number of factors, including local, county, state and federal responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and other highly debated social and political topics.
Both ASU and Northwestern caution news consumers against such organizations because the individuals behind those digital platforms have limited to no journalism education or experience.
"Just so there is no confusion, we are a league above and beyond all the self-proclaimed online reporters who only report the news through the lens of their own agendas," Perez further explained. "Often their stories end up being not much more than echo chambers."
Adding, "That's one reason it's so important that newspapers have strict governing laws and regulations requiring certain standards and credentials which protect not just the papers but the readers as well."
Credentialed newspapers should be recognized by the NNA (National Newspaper Association), Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the Associated Press (AP) and state press associations, such as the Nebraska Press Association (NPA), all of which the Sidney Sun-Telegraph is a proud member. Each of these organizations holds newspapers to a much higher standard of practice than entertainment or infotainment organizations on digital platforms.
Newsrooms must adhere to the standards of journalistic integrity and practices set forth by the AP and SPJ or risk loosing credentials and licenses.
The SPJ, in conjunction with AP standards, set four pillars of journalistic ethics every newsroom is expected to follow.
The SPJ Code of Ethics reads as follows:
Seek Truth and Report it: local journalists are to take responsibility for the accuracy of their work, verify and fact-check information before releasing it and use original sources whenever possible. Local newsrooms are to label stories accordingly to what they are, whether its paid content, out-sourced content, advocacy, lobbying or commentary content, such as opinions and letters to the editor. Additionally, reporters and editors are to ensure, whenever possible and appropriate to do so, provide attributions and sources for information it publishes and uses.
Minimize Harm: Local journalists are to balance the public's need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness – nor is it a call to action or activism.
Act Independently: the highest and primary obligation of ethical journalism is to serve the public by producing news which may be unfavorable to their own personal beliefs, toward friends or liked community members or to the readership as a whole – as long as its vetted and credible information from credible sources. Local newsrooms may work with advertisers that mutually benefit the paper and the organization, however, newsrooms are to resist involvement in specialized interests, lobbying or activist groups to avoid conflict of interest.
Be Accountable and Transparent: Ethical journalism means taking responsibility for one's work and explaining one's decisions to the public. Journalists should expose unethical practices, set high standards, acknowledge mistakes and correct them, respond to concerns with accuracy, clarity and fairness, and explain ethical choices whenever possible or needed.
"No newspaper anywhere should be hesitant to report a story because it may upset people or worse – out of a fear of 'not being liked'," Perez explained. "In each of those cases, it is the readers who lose."
Adding, "It is vital that people realize how important local newspapers still are and that they continue to support them through subscriptions and advertising."
According to an independent, non profit, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 2022 was the deadliest year on record for American journalists; 67 journalists were killed on the job or in connection to their jobs in 2022. Another roughly 60% of journalists reported being stalked, threatened or intimidated by members of the public and public officials. That's roughly a 50% increase from 2020. The organization also says targeting U.S. journalists spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, high ranking local government officials attempted to target their local journalists, which was later exposed by other media entities.
The Sidney Sun-Telegraph is proud to represent Sidney and Cheyenne County as the area's longest, only accredited, credentialed and nationally recognized newspaper in the area; the paper turned 150 this year.
Since becoming the Sidney Sun-Telegraph Editor and Publisher this past November, Perez has made it a point to focus on improving the paper on several levels. Some of those improvements include redesigning and streamlining the layout, focusing on accuracy and accountability, improving attention to the greater community and county for news and engaging with readers in ways in which the paper can continue to improve.
Another improvement is limiting the opinion-based commentary to one page and using less augmented news – meaning, producing more in-house news articles with a greater focus of boots on the ground reporting.
"The staff can now proudly say the Sun-Telegraph embodies journalistic standards and ethics each day and with each story it publishes," Perez said.
Come into the Sun-Telegraph, 817 12th Ave., Sidney, anytime during Nebraska Community Newspaper Week, June 26 through June 30, and pick-up a free newspaper, talk to an award-winning news staff and learn more about how your local paper operates and delivers news that matters to you. From all of us at the Sun-Telegraph to all of you, thank you Sidney and Cheyenne County for supporting us for 150 years.
The Proclamation in its entirety reads:
"WHEREAS, in 1873, the Nebraska Press Association was organized to promote and protect the journalistic and business interests of community newspapers; and
WHEREAS, in its first 50-year history, from its membership would come three persons who would serve as governor of the state of Nebraska, two presidential candidates, numerous U.S. Cabinet positions and ambassadorships and Pulitzer Prize winners; as well as numerous prominent individuals of state, national and international status of influence and importance; and
WHEREAS, Nebraska's newspapers are the first draft of history for the communities they serve through news coverage of local people, issues, events, schools, churches, civic organizations, business community, personal achievements and milestones, births, deaths, weddings, etc ,; and
WHEREAS, Nebraska's newspapers served well their role as the Fourth Estate, being the watchdog on all persons of authority, elected officials and tax-supported entities that serve all taxpayers and citizens, promoting transparency and government responsibility; and
WHEREAS, Nebraska's newspapers foster local debate on issues at the local, state and national levels, which serves as the foundation of our democracy; and
WHEREAS, Nebraska newspapers are evolving by which their content reaches expanded audiences across platforms other than print, such as online, social media and mobile devices; and
WHEREAS, Nebraska newspapers are strong contributors to the local and state economy; and
WHEREAS, The Nebraska Press Association (NPA) has achieved a significant milestone this year 2023, that being its 150th Anniversary Year, making it one of the oldest associations in Nebraska.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Jim Pillen, Governor of the State of Nebraska, DO HEREBY PROCLAIM the week of June 26-30, as COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER WEEK in Nebraska, and I do hereby urge all citizens to read their local newspaper and recognize the important role newspapers have in our local communities.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand, and cause the Great Seal of the State of Nebraska to be affixed this fourteenth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-three."