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We are not "the media"

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There is a disconnect between what people call "the media" and what we do at the CKNJ

By Zac Oakes

 

The journalists at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, amaze me. In the face of one of the darkest tragedies one can imagine – watching their coworkers mercilessly gunned down by a man filled with hatred toward the newspaper and its reporters – the Capital Gazette staff carried on and published a newspaper the following day. That’s exactly what happened last Thursday when five members of the newspaper’s staff were killed. And still, the next day, the Capital Gazette put out a paper.

That is absolutely astounding.

It goes to show the level of commitment these journalists – and those around the country – have toward their career, a career that is far from glamorous in any sense of the word.

Being in journalism means long and irregular hours, not the best pay, meetings that sometimes last much longer than necessary, an unstable schedule, varying deadlines and dealing with uncomfortable issues.

I have only been in journalism for roughly five years, and during that time, I have been involved in community journalism like we practice here at the Central Kentucky News-Journal.

Community journalism is wide reaching. It means covering issues of importance to the local citizens, such as the closure of the city pool and the local government’s dilemma of how to proceed with it, or how the local schools are taking steps to keep their students safe, or local elections.

It means highlighting the achievements of local citizens and businesses, like Tucker Diamonds and Gold celebrating its 70th anniversary or Caulk Farms being recognized for its hard work and dedication to building a successful family farm.

It means covering the local high school sports teams and the highs and lows that happen each season, like Campbellsville High School’s football team making a run to the state semifinals or Taylor County sophomore Ciara Mosley winning a state title in track and field.

Many times, it includes photos from events around the community such as Folk Fest that occurred on Main Street, the Taylor County Fair or the annual Fourth of July festivities.

The term “fake news” is thrown around a lot, and to be perfectly honest, way more often than I like to see. People have built-up frustration with “the media” because they feel like certain political figures are not covered the way they should be, or believe that there is exceptional bias in reporting.

But there seems to be a disconnect between what many people label as “the media” and what we do here at the CKNJ. You won’t typically see us covering the latest gossip out of the Capitol or White House in Washington D.C., unless there is a significant local connection. You won’t typically see us covering the same issues that you’ll find on CNN, FOX News or MSNBC.

Instead, you will see us at city council and fiscal court meetings, board of education meetings, the public library, local schools, Little League baseball fields, high school sporting events, Chamber of Commerce luncheons, town halls or at emergency scenes, documenting local events and life in Campbellsville/Taylor Çounty.

You’ll see us at the places the major television news networks aren’t, covering the issues and events in Campbellsville/Taylor County to the best of our ability.

But to borrow from Joy Mayer of trustingnews.org, “when people hear the word ‘journalism,’ they don’t think local news.”

“Some of our newsroom partners interviewed their own community members last year about trust,” Mayer recently wrote on her blog. “And even when those interviews were between a community weekly newspaper and one of its readers, many folks jumped straight to national political coverage to kick off the conversation. They wanted to talk about “the media.” They weren’t thinking about the person they were eyeball to eyeball with – someone who lived near them and shopped, ate, worshipped and parented alongside them.”

We want to help change the way people, especially in this community, view journalism because we aren’t here to push a conservative or liberal ideology on our readers. We aren’t here to tell you how to think. We are here because we care about this community, we care about First Amendment freedoms, and we care about being a place that you can go to and trust that you’re getting accurate information without a spin or twist on it. We want to present you with the facts and information you need to make an informed decision.

We sometimes hear people complain about our editorial page and how they didn’t like a particular cartoon or editorial on it. We aim to provide diversity on our editorial page, and sometimes that means someone on either side of the political aisle might be irritated at something that appeared on our editorial page. A key thing to note is that the editorial page does not contain news articles or stories, specifically for the reason to differentiate that page from the rest of the newspaper.

Ideally, we aim to try to provide more local editorial content on that page, so we certainly welcome your feedback on that.

We want to be accessible and interact with our readers and the community at large. If you see us out somewhere at an event or community function and you have a question, idea, concern or feedback about something regarding the CKNJ, let us know.

Feel free to reach out to us via phone or email, or through our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages. All are accessible to the public and we welcome your feedback. We want to hear from you.

We also gladly welcome letters to the editor, the guidelines of which can be found weekly on our editorial page.

We are a small operation. Our staff is much smaller than it was 10, 15 or 20 years ago and so on. That’s just a reality of the industry as a whole, but we continue to do our best to provide the best coverage of Taylor County possible. We can’t get to every event, as we also have families and other obligations outside of work, but that doesn’t change our desire to provide the best product we can to our readers. That’s why we encourage reader-submitted material, whether that is a photo from an event or community calendar announcements or a multitude of things.

To sum this up, please remember that we at the CKNJ are humans, too. We aren’t “the media.” We attend many of the same community events that you do, eat at the same restaurants, frequent the same businesses and can be seen around town.

We do make mistakes, because we are human. Rest assured, however, that we do our best to limit those mistakes and correct them when needed.

We are here to serve this community, and that is our motivation for what we do.