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Our view: Care enough to consume the news of your city

In a report this week in the Grand Forks Herald, the owner of the Drayton, North Dakota, Valley News & Views said that if a buyer isn’t found by next month, the weekly publication will close so she can focus on her health.

Herald pull quote, 5/21/22
Herald graphic
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Another newspaper is on the verge of closing.

In a report this week in the Grand Forks Herald, the owner of the Drayton, North Dakota, Valley News & Views said that if a buyer isn’t found by next month, the weekly publication will close so she can focus on her health.

“People do not want to see their newspaper die, so that’s why I bought it. So it wouldn’t die,” said Lesa Van Camp. “Ultimately, the irony is, I’m the one closing it.”

And, if it does close, it will inhibit the people’s ability to know about the important things happening in that community – the sports, the events and, especially, the goings-on in local government.

Perhaps it will push more people online in search of news – places like Facebook.

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Will they find reliable news there? It’s unlikely. Social media by itself is not a dependable source of news. And, unfortunately, it seems many people these days just aren’t interested in staying abreast of community information.

In Greater Grand Forks, a number of controversial government issues have occurred in recent years, with residents claiming they knew little or nothing about them.

In East Grand Forks, where the City Council has approved an asphalt plant, residents are saying city leaders didn’t work hard enough to alert the community about the project, although the proposal was posted in the East Grand Forks Exponent, a number of stories about it were published in the Grand Forks Herald , and the council’s meetings are broadcast live.

In Grand Forks, when school leaders last year were pushing a proposal to build a new north-side middle school , some residents said they knew little or nothing about it – despite numerous reports in the Herald, on TV and probably on local radio.

Grand Forks School Board meetings are open to the public and also broadcast live on the internet, yet we heard from opponents who said they aren’t interested in attending or watching the meetings.

Government entities post their agendas and other news about meetings on their websites. And, of course, Facebook supposedly is providing “news” about these issues, too.

It’s interesting that in a time when we are inundated with information from so many sources, some still complain that they don’t know about important happenings that will affect them.

So as another newspaper is on the verge of dying, will that town’s residents be able to find their news online?

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If so, they run the risk of entering social media’s echo chambers, in which algorithms feed consumers only the news that interests them or that only corresponds with their point of view. It’s called “confirmation bias” – the consumption of news or information that only supports an existing belief or opinion.

To combat it, news consumers must expand their reach and see news from other sources, where other points of view exist. They must care enough to attend meetings or intentionally seek out the information that affects their lives.

Newspapers certainly aren’t the only place for this – local radio and TV are good, too. But newspapers do serve a purpose, as a reliable place where consumers can learn about the issues that concern them, where governments post notices and where local happenings are covered.

But foremost, people have to care enough to learn about the things that affect them.

Attend the meetings. See the official publication of government proceedings. Listen to the radio and watch TV. Avoid the echo chambers of social media.

Read the newspaper.

Sadly, in Drayton and many other communities across the country, that opportunity is fading.

Related Topics: OUR VIEWMEDIASOCIAL MEDIA
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