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Our opinion: National Newspaper Week commemorates community institution

Oct. 6-12 is National Newspaper Week. While we should all be thankful for this community newspaper, the Americus Times-Recorder, each day it is published, this week is set aside to remind everyone of why a local newspaper is an essential part of the community.

Look at this way: your community newspaper shines a light into every corner of the community, keeping readers apace of what’s happening whether it be a carnival, fair, political rally, prayer service or business opening or closing, election, public hearing, whatever.

This newspaper, in both print and digital versions, is a source of information that people want and need to know. It contains information about who is celebrating a birthday or anniversary, who is getting married, who just welcomed a new child to the family, who purchased or soldreal estate, who is divorcing. It gives readers direction about church services, committee meetings, civic and social organizations, education news, and everything else you can imagine.

This newspaper chronicles the comings and goings of people, the events that make up our lives, and is the official record-keeper of local history. People will look back hundreds of years from now into the archives of this publication and be able to view a snapshot of what life was like in Americus and Sumter County during the early 21st century, just as we can now look back at how life was here in the mid-19th century when this newspaper first came into being in 1879.

The role of the local newspaper is essential to the community. It acts as a watchdog of local governmental agencies. It covers the meetings and studies the records of the agencies that decide on the tax rate, the amount you pay for services such as police, fire and water & sewerage. It informs the citizenry of how each elected official votes on issues and what they have to say publicly.

Take, for example, the solar farm proposed for eastern Sumter County. The Times-Recorder has reported on this since the beginning, providing information from the meetings of the Sumter County Board of Commissioners and the Sumter County Planning and Zoning Commission, as well as public hearings held on the proposal. This newspaper has quoted citizens who have spoken out about this proposal, pro and con, in order the give everyone the information they need to answer their questions and have their own, informed opinion on the solar farm proposal. If not for this newspaper, the public would not know about the proposal or the machinations of the local government.

The decisions of the local school board impact the quality of education offered in the local public school system. While the uninformed can continue to blame lack of economic development in the area on “poor schools,” if they would only read the local newspaper, they would realize that Sumter County Schools ranks sixth, tied with Schley County Schools, on test scores in the region. Would that fact not lead one to believe there might be other reasons for the lack of economic development locally? The College & Career Academy will act as an agent of progress in providing an educated and college- or job-ready population. That will help to attract more business to the area. It has been reported on in these pages since the idea was first floated locally.

Form your own opinions, but please, be informed before spouting off on social media. The facts are available in this newspaper because we care about our community and our major function, as the newspaper of record, is to keep the public informed. We also welcome the opinions of the public in the form of letters to the editor. In the past, we have witnessed the reversal of policy due to the impact of citizens’ input and the editorial opinions expressed in this very newspaper. It is amazing how the civic process works, especially with the citizen input through the local community newspaper. Please don’t forget that the newspaper is also made up of people who live here, own property here, pay local taxes, and vote.

Without a local newspaper, communities simply fail to thrive, dry up, and ultimately shut down. Do big companies want to locate to a community without a strong, viable local newspaper? No, they do not.

We embrace the community and ask that you continue to embrace us as well. Please support us in our endeavors and buy ads in the newspaper and its associated publications. While we support the community, we also need the community to support us, because without a local newspaper, this would become a ghost town.

Please join us in celebrating Nation