As 2020 gets underway, we took some time to look back on our coverage from 2019. Once again, we had a lot to write about, but that’s nothing new, especially during a municipal election year when voters must choose between change and status quo. With Southington’s town council carrying such a low approval rating with voters, it was no surprise that power shifted once again in 2019.
We started out the year with a firm resolution. After losing a freedom of information complaint because of a timeframe technicality, we pledged to learn from our mistake. We pledged to speak louder and stronger when we saw government overreach. We pledged to keep politicians accountable to those they serve and the often-overlooked charter that governs them. We think we held up our end of the bargain.
So, this year, our New Year’s resolution hasn’t changed. We resolve to provide responsible journalism to Southington residents, careful to avoid our own personal biases as much as possible. We remain committed to seeking the truth without being influenced by party opinions. Our news writers will try to avoid editorializing. Our editorials will try to stay out of the way when politicians act within the limited authority granted to them by the charter, state, and federal laws, but we will speak out loudly and strongly whenever a politician tries to abuse power, silence opposition, or serve personal or party interests rather than the town’s.
When we fall short, we will do what we always do. We will print a correction and try even harder to learn from our mistakes. We challenge local leaders to do the same. We would love to hear politicians correct the record—on the record—when they fall short of their ideals or get blinded by party politics. Maybe voters will start trusting them again, or—more importantly—start re-electing them or their party.
Newspapers have a valuable role as government watchdogs, wading through the minutiae of public meetings, public records, and day-to-day activities to ensure that nobody in government oversteps the limited scope of their authority. It’s one of the reasons our nation’s forefathers protected a free press in the first amendment. A free press is necessary as a final check and balance to protect a democracy from its leadership, and we take that role seriously.
According to recent research by the University of Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism, more than one in five U.S. newspapers has closed. That research led the New York Times to ask readers across the country how they were affected by the decline of local news. There was a wide variety of responses ranging from “our community does not know itself” to complaints that “local stories about mayoral races, city and council races, commissions, library activities and school board decisions are all missing.”
“City Council and school board meetings. Small-town sports and politics. Local government corruption. These are a handful of the news and issues that go unreported when small newspapers close or are gutted by layoffs,” wrote New York Times staff writer Lara Takenaga. “That has led to the rise of hollowed-out ‘ghost papers’ and communities across the country without any local paper.”
As a family-owned, community newspaper, we are proud that we’re still in the fight, serving as a trusted voice in Southington. We will continue to serve as a forum for public conversation as long as Southington wants us. The community voice is our business, and we are committed to it.
We wish a Happy New Year to all of our readers. May 2020 be the best year on record.
To comment on this editorial or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.