Our Opinion: Strong local newspapers keep citizens informed

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In these inflationary times, 50 cents won’t buy you a steaming cup of coffee or a cold cola from a vending machine. But the clink of two quarters in the coin slot still gets you a copy of today’s newspaper.

Calling that a bargain is something of an understatement. When you pick up The Wilson Times, you’re buying more than ink and paper. You’re investing in your community and helping us hold authorities and elected leaders accountable.

As we mark National Newspaper Week, which began last Sunday and continues through Saturday, we want to remind all our readers and subscribers why we exist and why it matters. While some newspapers struggle to find their footing in today’s shifting media landscape, the 121-year-old Wilson Times has positioned itself as a leader in the digital news revolution.

Baptist pastor P.D. Gold started a publishing company in 1867 to print a synodical publication, Zion’s Landmark. His son, John D. Gold, learned the printer’s trade from his father and founded The Wilson Times in 1896.

The Times was published weekly or semi-weekly until 1902, when Gold rechristened it the Wilson Daily Times. Gold leased the paper to H.D. Brauff in 1946, and his daughter, Elizabeth Gold Swindell, later bought it back from the Brauff family.

Swindell’s son-in-law, Morgan Paul Dickerman II, signed on as associate publisher in 1957 and helped the paper expand. Dickerman died in July 1974 and Swindell brought her daughter, Margaret Dickerman, aboard to help run the newspaper. Morgan Paul Dickerman III became vice president in 1979 and was named president and publisher after Swindell’s death.

The Times is proud to be an independent, family-owned newspaper in an era when competition and corporate consolidation are turning the chorus of media voices into a dull monotone. We don’t answer to far-flung executives or investors who hold the purse strings. Instead of shareholders, we have stakeholders — subscribers and advertisers in the community we cover.

Your subscription or the 50 cents you dropped into the box helps pay for watchdog journalism in Wilson County. It sends reporters to the city council and county commissioners’ meetings, and they let you know when taxes or public employees’ salaries are going up.

When tragedy strikes, our journalists strive to cover it compassionately and responsibly. We document crime and natural disasters in an earnest effort to make our community a safer place to live.

Our dedicated sports staff chronicles the efforts of student-athletes in local public and private schools. From Friday night football’s first kickoff to the middle school soccer field, we’re here to showcase our community’s athletic talent.

In this space on the opinion page, we weigh in on the issues affecting Wilson County. We shine a light on solutions to local problems, and we advocate for transparent and accountable government.

As Election Day nears, we encourage everyone to vote, but we stop short of endorsing local and national candidates. Through our reporting, we provide readers with the information they need to make intelligent choices in the voting booth. We won’t presume to tell you which choices to make.

Throughout the country, some newspapers have closed their doors and others have switched from a daily edition to a semi-weekly format as they struggle to stay afloat. Businesses are spending less money on newspaper ads, and readers are increasingly going online for news.

The Wilson Times remains a strong daily newspaper, and we aren’t letting the digital migration leave us behind. We report Wilson County news in print and online. Breaking stories appear on our website as they develop — hours before the next day’s paper rolls off the press.

Newspapers play a vital role in American democracy by keeping the public informed. That’s a responsibility we take seriously and always will.

Editor’s Note: A version of this editorial was first published in October 2012. It is periodically updated and republished in observance of National Newspaper Week.