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Guest column by Marty Cheek: Morgan Hill Life celebrates our 100th issue

Published in the April 26 – May 9, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Marty Cheek

Marty Cheek

Somehow we missed it. During a story budget meeting in March, editor Robert Airoldi and I did a quick calculation of how many issues of Morgan Hill Life we’ve put out in four years. We both felt like scatterbrains when we realized that our April 12 issue was our 100th. Somehow, our team became so focused on the production that we let our milestone pass by without comment. Publishing 100 issues of a newspaper is a major accomplishment — one we are truly proud of.

Four years ago, people said we were crazy to start a newspaper. “Don’t you know print news is a dying industry?” they asked us. “Look at all the newspapers that are failing.” They pointed at social media such as Facebook and Twitter transforming how people get their news.

Still, perhaps driven by a quixotic vision, we created Life Media Group. We launched our first issue of Morgan Hill Life June 26, 2013. A crazy idea born and weaned on an old beat-up desk in my garage became real. It’s the cliché story of Silicon Valley: we were just two guys taking the advice of a certain famous entrepreneur to “think different.” We created a company dedicated to media innovation. We sought a new style of journalism — a hybrid of a traditional newspaper and a lifestyle magazine that focuses on hyper-local coverage of a community.

Now instead of saying we’re crazy, people tell us how much they love Morgan Hill Life. We trust those comments show there’s hope for local news that focuses on protecting and enhancing the quality of life for everyone in a community. And our advertisers agree, supporting Morgan Hill Life by using our news media source to market their businesses. Coming out every other week and delivered to nearly 18,000 homes and businesses in Morgan Hill, our small-town newspaper ties the people of our community with the stories of their lives and the current events that impact all those lives.

We kept hearing from residents in Gilroy that they wanted a similar quality-of-life, hyper-local news source for their own community. So in June 2016, we launched Gilroy Life. Every two weeks, it arrives in nearly 21,000 mailboxes of residents and businesses.

When we launched Life Media Group, we never suspected that four years later the U.S. President would tell the public that the professionals in the news media were the “enemy of the American people.” The relationship between politicians and the press is one often filled with friction. The men of history who sat in the Oval Office no doubt felt uncomfortable and even angry with the mass media’s coverage of their foolish decisions, character failings and inappropriate behaviors. Several American presidents tried to erode the credibility of the press. One of them ended up leaving the White House in disgrace because of a national news story that started with a bungled burglary.
One of the duties of a free press is to shine a light on our leaders and institutions. To disparage the people who work in the news industry as villainous for doing their jobs — that’s a danger for democracy. The success of the American experiment requires that people know the truth about what is happening in their government.

The recent trend toward fake news stories spreading like a virus through social media — something we saw emerge last year in our election process — is a cancer. This malignancy will eat away at our American freedoms. What’s the cure? I have a hunch it’s better education of our people in something we call “media savvy.” We humans by our inherent nature tend to be gullible. We can be easily fooled by what we might at first consider a legitimate news source if it is presented in a format that appears professional.

I played with an idea recently of writing a column based on the premise of “A Day Without a Reporter.” What if in one 24-hour period every professional journalist stopped working and prepared no news for public consumption? No stories filed on elected government leaders, no local news, no sports scores, no commentary. Zilch. It would be an interesting experiment. We would survive the information vacuum for that short span of time. But no doubt many people would suffer a high anxiety from a lack of knowing what was happening in their world that day.

The American republic requires a free press. Citizens need to be informed about current events and the quality of character of our leaders. That’s true on every level of a democratic society. And that’s one big reason why we at Life Media Group are proud to serve the people of Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy.