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Clemons: Journalism still of vital importance to communities

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but this wasn’t the best week for journalism.

Tronc Inc. slashed staffing at the iconic Daily News tabloid in New York on Monday. Half the newsroom staff was fired, including Editor Jim Rich.

Rich gave a grim foreshadowing of what was to come in an early morning tweet.

“If you think hate democracy and think local governments should operate unchecked and in the dark, then today is a good day for you,” he wrote.

And then the firings began. The managing editor lost her job too. In fact, so many journalists were cut that Tronc wouldn’t say how many people were fired. And in a meeting the next day, the new editor admitted Tronc didn’t have a turnaround plan in place before the massive layoffs.

These cuts hurt even if they’re colleagues I don’t know, and Rich’s tweet has a lot to do with it.

When I consider the work newspapers are doing when they do it well, there is an opportunity to have a real impact on the community.

In the nearly 11 months since Patrick Graham’s purchase of The Covington News, I’ve had numerous people tell me they appreciate the way we have covered the news of this county. We’re not perfect by any stretch, but I think readers see we’ve tried to search for the truth without agenda.

I honestly believe if you just put the facts out on the table, people are smart enough to make good decisions.

One example of the best our industry can be is on the front page of today’s paper. It’s Darry Welch’s story about the use of credit cards by county employees.

I’m not sure how many people I would have thought got the use of a purchasing card, or P-card for short, but I know now it’s many more. And I am stunned by some of the expenses — wow, Newton County employees get a lot of appreciation from their supervisors at taxpayer expense.

Maybe it’s legal, but that doesn’t mean it’s the highest and best use of your money. By revealing how these dollars are spent, you’ll be able to make up your mind if the right people are spending it in the right way, and if management should continue or changes should be made the next time we go to the ballot box.

Over the past year we’ve also worked to follow the case of the death of infant Caliyah McNabb with all-hands-on-deck coverage of the search for the missing child to every court hearing for both accused parents. We’ve argued for public access to the courtroom and will be there when the trial starts, possibly as soon as next month.

And we’ve followed the pursuit of Facebook to Newton County, from the days of the Morning Hornet project to the governor’s announcement at the Capitol.

None of this can be done on our own. Thankfully we’ve been supported by loyal readers and advertisers. In fact, our advertising situation has shown improvement in the past year and circulation has stabilized.

I’m scared to think where this community or others like it would be without journalists who continue to dig for the truth. Thank you for those who’ve supported that mission, and if you’re not currently doing business with us, give me a call and let’s talk about how we can make that happen in a way that benefits all of us.

David Clemons is the editor and publisher of The Covington News. His email address is Twitter: @scoopclemons.