Moment of truth: Until recently, I didn’t subscribe to this newspaper. This despite my former role as a reporter and years spent skimming newspapers in staff lounges and reading free articles online. But I finally bought a digital subscription. Here’s why.
I came of age with the movie “Reality Bites,” in which the Generation X Winona Ryder character, a disaffected college grad, looks for work. At a journalism job interview she rambles that newspapers are “the last watchdogs of our government.” This is delivered somewhat ironically (her next interview question is to “define irony,” and she fails).
This was in 1994, before the ubiquitous Internet.
Twenty-five years later, you might argue that TV news has usurped newspapers’ role, but my peers and I don’t have TV. We have apps. I subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Prime and HBO, and check YouTube for late-night comedy clips. I don’t watch local TV news, or public access television or even PBS. (I do listen to Prairie Public radio, but I am a nerd.) But I pay taxes here, vote here and have two young kids entering public school. I need to pay attention, the best I can, to decisions that affect my family and others in our community.
The Tribune is far from perfect and, like many newspapers, has made some disappointing decisions beholden to ad revenue and corporate overlords. Still, the paper is how I keep tabs on regional news, like the recent gun show accident, proposed school redistricting or what the Department of Health has been up to.
Coverage of the state’s new Ethics Commission is another case in point, opined upon by my fellow columnist Tory Jackson. The editorial board’s recent opinion, “North Dakota needs to find moral compass,” prompted a vibrant, even heated, discussion on these pages.
Good. This is the point, is it not? We the people are that moral compass.
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We must support outlets that provide trustworthy local information to make up our own minds about what’s happening. Otherwise we will be left only with national media that can’t even spell Bismarck correctly, public relations spin (see the governor’s weekly e-newsletter) and ill-informed Facebook rants from your uncle. This is no way to maintain a robust, thoughtful community.
I’m no longer an employee of the Tribune. I don’t even get paid to write this column (although ethically columnists should be compensated -- please subscribe!). There has been high turnover in the newsroom, including layoffs and retirements, but from personal experience I can assure you the reporters are doing the best they can with the resources provided.
I subscribed because I am excited the Tribune named Amy Dalrymple, a seasoned reporter and savvy young professional, as editor. Amy Sisk has returned to cover energy alongside an array of enthusiastic reporters and veteran photographers, and the new news editor has regional Associated Press experience.
We need to ensure these reporters have the resources to do their jobs, and to do them well. Paying opinion writers wouldn’t hurt, either.
To conclude with irony: I have both defended and critiqued this paper within a column run by said paper. The opinion page remains one of our best community outlets for free speech. I invite you to continue supporting local journalism however you can, and submit your own letters to the editor to add to the diversity of voices on these pages.
We need to hear from you, and it’s OK to respectfully disagree.