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Other View: Care enough to consume the news of your city

From the editorial: "Social media by itself is not a dependable source of news. Unfortunately, though, it seems many people these days just aren’t interested in staying abreast of community information."

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Another newspaper is on the verge of closing.

In a report in the Grand Forks, North Dakota, Herald last month, the owner of the Drayton, North Dakota, Valley News & Views said that if a buyer isn’t found soon, 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. Unfortunately, though, it seems many people these days just aren’t interested in staying abreast of community information.

In the Grand Forks area, for example, a number of controversial government issues have occurred in recent years with residents claiming they knew little or nothing about them. One was in East Grand Forks, where the City Council approved an asphalt plant, and residents said city leaders didn’t work hard enough to alert the community. This was even though 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.

Meetings of local governments are open to the public and also often are broadcast live on public-access television or the internet. But too many say they aren’t interested in attending or watching the meetings. It’s interesting that in a time when we are inundated with information from so many sources, some still complain they don’t know about important happenings that affect them.

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

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 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.

Foremost, though, 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.

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Read the newspaper.

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

— Grand Forks Herald of North Dakota

Related Topics: MEDIASOCIAL MEDIA
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