Braxton Citizens' News, Opinion

Sunshine Week…

Sunshine Week is an important annual event for our industry. It draws attention to the newspapers and their responsibility to hold governmental entities accountable and make sure their activities are open and in the best interest of our taxpayers. Due to the busy week and a little bit of sickness last week, I nearly missed it. However, my good friend Jim Spanner, publisher of the Parkersburg newspapers didn’t. He and his cohorts penned a very appropriate editorial that appeared in their publications Friday. I want to share it with you here, because I couldn’t possibly agree more…

As we near the end of this year’s Sunshine Week, communities across the country are continuing to rely on their local newspaper to ensure public officials are not doing business in the dark. This is becoming an increasingly difficult task, though, due to the challenges facing the local news industry and also a willingness among many public officials to do their work in private.

This Sunshine Week, as with every other week of the year, we at The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register pledge to do our best to ensure you and your neighbors are fully informed as to how your tax dollars are being spent, and how decisions made by local elected leaders impact you.

Community support of newspapers such as ours has never been more important. Your support lends power to our efforts to shine a light on what public officials are doing with your money — particularly when those same officials wish, at times, to keep their actions hidden.

Your local newspaper needs your support. No other news outlet has, for generations, worked to inform you not just of the happenings in your community, but also how officials are handling the public’s business. We attend community meetings, file Freedom of Information Act requests and do the digging that adds context to public actions. Those of us doing this work understand its importance. But we’re fighting a battle every day. As the political climate has made it easier for politicians to pretend reporters are working against your best interests, those elected and other public officials have convinced themselves the public will no longer demand transparency and accountability. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“For decades, journalists and civic activists have lamented the increasing secrecy of government ­…” said David Cuillier, director of the Freedom of Information project. “Reports have shown secrecy getting worse at (all) government levels.”

It would be nice to think we don’t need to worry about these things here in the Ohio Valley (and Braxton County). But reality has slapped us in the face time and again. Without your community newspaper to shine a light on them, there is very little to stop public entities from running amok.

Use this Sunshine Week as an opportunity to reflect: Without your local newspaper, how would you know what was happening in your schools, cities, counties or even state? Do you rely on the propaganda these entities present as news, or do you trust an entity that has faithfully served you for more than 150 years? We need your help to keep up that kind of vigilance. Without it, the prospects are dark, indeed.