Former T-N reporter's words ring true: 'Support community journalism or lose it. Bottom line.'

·3 min read
Emily Weaver
Emily Weaver

No matter how long a newspaper has been in business, it is not safe from shutting down in this digital-based world, consumed by the internet and social media.

While many newspapers are going more digital and are seeing profits, small-town papers across the nation are unable to keep their productions going these days, especially with inflation and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The latest casualty is the Mount Olive Tribune, a weekly newspaper based in Mount Olive that covered Southern Wayne and Northern Duplin counties. While the paper may be hundreds of miles way (near Raleigh), it did affect one of our own — our former police reporter Emily Weaver, who was with us from 2012-15. She was the managing editor at the Mount Olive Tribune for the past three years.

"I've been fighting off its closure since I came here three years ago," she said on June 22. "We've had meetings with community stakeholders and reminded people as often as possible that we need their support. The pandemic and inflation haven't done us any favors. While readership and online reach did improve, advertising did not."

Weaver said having to come to the reality of closing the business has been probably the hardest thing she's had to deal with in her nearly 20-year career ... but, she's not giving up local journalism, she said.

"Losing this one has encouraged me to work even harder to propel The Daily Record forward in Dunn. I have new goals and plans to reach them," she said.

Weaver made an emotional Facebook post Tuesday, announcing the Mount Olive paper's closing, but also reinforcing how important local newspapers are to the community.

This was her post:

"The Mount Olive Tribune recorded history, informed and entertained readers and kept a watch on officials and tax dollars for 118 years. Our long watch ends with our last edition on June 29, 2022.

It's been a hard month... a very hard month. But it's encouraged me to work harder and reinforced my belief that what we do matters. And how we do it may matter even more.

Newspapers have struggled for years and I've seen communities lose their voice as they fold. I pray someone steps up to be that voice in Mount Olive.

Every community needs that check and balance, that watchdog who tells people when their taxes are going up and when their hard-earned tax dollars are misspent. They need someone to let them know what happened next door when all of the police cars were there or where to find that special bargain or how to contact their legislator who represents them. Newspapers and media outlets do that every day. And they provide it all in one forum.

People might learn snippets of what's going on around them on social media, but random posters, who hide behind screen names and avatars, aren't fact-checking the way a journalist is required to do.

If you don't know the source, how can you trust it?

Support community journalism or lose it. Bottom line.

And to all of the journos out there, who feel overwhelmed and discouraged, don't give up! You stand guard in an ongoing war of misinformation and others still look to you for the truth. It's just harder for them to hear it these days. Lord knows, we're taking heavy fire.

Anything really worth doing is never easy, though... and what we do is worth it."

Her post is spot on and her passion for what she does can be felt in every single word. It's true. ... We want to be that community watchdog, always striving to inform the public, whether it's about news, entertainment or sports. That's our job.

And her bottom line comment is one of the most powerful parts of her post, and it will always ring true. We are a business, and like any business, we will always need the community's support.

Dean Hensley is the editor of the Hendersonville Times-News. Reach him at 828-694-7868 or by email at dhensley@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Hendersonville Times-News: Former T-N reporter's words ring true: 'Support community journalism or lose it. Bottom line.'