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  • Last modified 129 days ago (Aug. 8, 2018)

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State of the newspaper

Forgive a moment of introspection, but as another summer draws to a close and home-that-isn’t-home once again beckons, it’s time to take stock of how your newspapers and the communities they serve are doing.

Yes, it may be presumptuous of someone who, until retirement, will spend only four months of the year here, but sometimes it’s easier to see things when you aren’t staring at them every day.

Earlier this year, the newspaper you hold in your hands or view on your screen was honored as the best mid-size nondaily in the state. Our promise is that we’re going to do everything we can to stay that way.

Joining our staff this summer have been three stellar recruits — news editor Sheila Kelley, reporter Alex Simone, and office manager Cheri Bentz. If you haven’t met them yet, drop by our office and say hello.

All three are highly talented and motivated additions to a veteran team that includes production manager Melvin Honeyfield, returning sales manager Debbie Steele, reporters Rowena Plett and Phyllis Zorn, sports writer Ryan Richter, and office assistant Sarah Kelley — who, along with our contributors, form the largest and best news team not just in Marion County but also in most adjoining counties as well.

Unlike a lot of news organizations, which constantly seek to cut staff and stretch their resources thin by expanding into other areas, we’re committed to doing what we have for nearly 150 years — making certain our local democracy functions well by ensuring that everyone is fully informed of all the news.

We know the challenges.

Free papers that print only a small smattering of news and fill holes around ads with feel-good columns and “canned” news from ad agencies make readers think they’ve eaten dinner when all they’re done is taste a few bites of desserts. In private, even their publishers admit it.

Social media provide an even smaller fraction of actual news, mixed in with all manner of rumor, gossip, fake news, “flame” wars, and mind-numbingly boring details of the lives of people you mistakenly friended and now are afraid to “un-friend” for fear of upsetting them.

We’re hoping our readers are smart enough not to be fooled into thinking that relying on either of them, or on broadcast news obsessed more with hairdos than information, is enough sustenance to function as an informed member of our community.

But we need your help in introducing them to what real news is really about. If you have a friend, relative, or neighbor who’s relying on services that exist solely to sell ads or to steal personal information, give a gift of enlightenment by signing him or her up for a free trial subscription to our papers. Just have your soon-to-be-enlightened fellow community member fill out the form elsewhere on this page.

Likewise, when you see a local business frittering away their advertising dollars on media that mainly end up ignored and fail to support the local community as extensively as this paper does, tell the business you’d appreciate it if they did exactly what they want you to do — shop at home, placing their ads in a newspaper owned by and designed for people who call Marion County home.

Marion County is at a crossroads. Never has it been more important for citizens to be fully informed. That’s why, for years, we have operated two of our papers at a loss — to preserve independent, local news sources for the communities they serve. Lest we become forced to do as El Dorado and Augusta have done, or Ark City and Winfield have done, or as many other regional papers have done and combine everything into a single countywide newspaper, we need your help.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Aug. 8, 2018

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