An, um, interesting year comes to a close

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

To say that 2017 has been an interesting year is something of an understatement.

From that standpoint, it has been one of the most amazing years to be in journalism — a dynamic year with no shortage of compelling stories and subject matter.

It has also been one of the most challenging — probably the most challenging year in the 34 years I have been in the business.

I won’t bore you with the details of how tough it is to get ad dollars — our readership is something like four times what it was in 2011, yet our revenue is less — in part because of the wildly changing media landscape, in part because of media monopolies (Google, Facebook). The implosion of the retail sector has also reduced the pool of potential clients for ads as well.

It’s tough to be in this business now.

I will grant that situation is cyclic and will resolve. People need news and we as an industry will find a solution, either through better ad rates or by moving to a subscription/donation model (obviously, your input would be welcome on that subject).

The harder thing is the ongoing attack on the profession by President Donald Trump, and by association — the lack of comment in opposition by the vast majority of Republican elected officials.

Is the media perfect? Far from — the large corporate media often puts the needs of drawing eyeballs over good journalistic practices. Small media outlets like ours are cash and resource strapped and never get to cover a fraction of the stories that we’d like to, and even on the ones we do, we don’t often have the time to really dig in and cover complex issues.

And even those (the vast majority) doing good solid work at times make mistakes — sources lie, accounts conflict, and the truth can be elusive at times. We try to get it right, but once in a while it goes wrong. We acknowledge the error, correct it and move on.

What I can say from my decades of experience, is that the number of errors in the media is vastly outnumbered — arguably 10 to 1 – by the misstatements, shadings, evasions and downright lies of elected officials. Without a free press to question and expose those comments, who holds them accountable?

We must be careful about the corrosive effect on public attacks on the media, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and our judicial branch. Collectively, all make a good-faith effort to get it right every time. No institution is perfect and all three have room for improvement — as their fiercest supporters would agree — but all are deserving of their role as bedrocks of our democracy.

If we allow said elected officials to bully media outlets into only reporting the news they want reported, we lose the essential freedoms needed for a representative democracy. There are hard and painful truths — things that often break our collective hearts to report — but yet, to do our jobs, we must shed light on those issues.

You have a right to know.

At the end of the day, the media has a responsibility to inform and educate.

In 2018, we will continue to fight to do that job and continue to treasure your support — our readers — in helping us to keep working for you.

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