On the eve of the 2018 midterm elections, the District’s longtime, well-respected radio talk-show host, Kojo Nnamdi, dedicated his daily noontime program to a provocative discussion about the ongoing relevance and importance of the local press in today’s society. He and his three panelists, each representing various local media outlets or publications, all agreed that the work done by local reporters, photographers, editors and publishers who represent community-based newspapers provide something that’s often omitted by mainstream media, print, web-based or television — practical information and vignettes reflecting day-to-day occurrences and other relevant items that sometimes only have significance for those who live in the neighborhoods in which local press serve as beat reporters.
As for the recent midterm elections, we were reminded that in many cases, the role of vetting potential candidates, which includes revealing their background, history and sharing the essentials of their political platform, winds up being the only way that millions of Americans are given the chance to objectively know the differences between the individuals on the ballot — from judges and governors to school board members and mayors. Further, reporters from the local press tend to know more about the communities whose streets they routinely walk than anyone from the mainstream. They know the leaders of various small towns in the U.S. on a first-name basis. They understand the groups and voices who raise doubts, criticize the status quo and suggest alternative programs that might otherwise be ignored and dismissed if not for the commitment of community-based journalists.
Even more and as one panelist suggested, as America moves closer and closer toward a more polarized existence — one in which citizens live in increasing isolation instead of relationship — the local press helps communities from opposite sides of the fence, the river and the bridge get to know more about one another — facilitating the evolution of former strangers into friends.
But there’s more that should be said. In many instances, those tear-jerking features about mothers who have lost children to violence, grandparents who have accepted the responsibility of raising their children’s children because those parents reside within the walls of a thriving prison industrial complex and little-known initiatives led by ordinary people that facilitate the transformation of troubled youth from the hood into extraordinary citizens are the kind that can only be investigated and reported by local reporters who have gained the trust of the community.
As the Black-owned, local newspaper for citizens East of the River, as well as those who work or play in Prince George’s County and other parts of the District, Maryland and Virginia, The Washington Informer has accepted the challenge to bring our best, to tell the truth and share stories that would otherwise remain forgotten for almost 55 years.
And we’re not done yet — not by a long shot.