If you care about the future of democracy, support local journalism

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Editorial is the opinion of Morgan Hill Life

We have happy news along with some sad news to share with our readers.

First the happy news. Life Media Group publisher Marty Cheek received a pleasant surprise in October when he learned that Morgan Hill Life, the sister publication of Gilroy Life, was selected to receive the Golden Quill Award from the California School Board Association. We couldn’t publish a story about the award until after the presentation — and it’s exciting to share it with you now.

Cheek attended the CSBA’s annual conference in San Diego Dec. 7, where he was presented with the award along with 24 other recipients from throughout the state.  All the honorees received the award, according to the CSBA, in “recognition of fair, insightful and accurate reporting on public school news by print, broadcast and online news media representatives.”

The Golden Quill Awards are presented by the California School Boards Association to recognize outstanding education journalism and highlight the essential role journalists play in increasing the understanding of the objectives, operations, accomplishments, challenges and opportunities related to public schools.

“Journalists who produce fair and accurate reporting about California’s public schools perform a great service by providing a lens through which the community gains greater knowledge of the critical and intricate work of educating students,” said CSBA President Dr. Emma Turner. “The Golden Quill Awards celebrate the best journalism that both informs audiences and illuminates the important issues facing their local schools.

Our team at Life Media Group champions the value of public education. We believe the news media plays a vital role in helping our young people by connecting schools with the larger community. Part of our publishing company’s mission is to use our biweekly newspapers as a publication to educate students about the art of writing and the value of the free press. Cheek often visits classrooms to tutor young writers on story composition skills and provides space in our two newspapers to publish student perspectives and their accounts of activities, events, or their personal experiences. We hope it encourages them to engage in their community.

Now some sad news. We learned earlier this month that the Martinez News-Gazette, Contra Costa County’s oldest newspaper, will shut down at the end of the year. Founded in 1858, it has published stories about the American Civil War, the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, the landing on the Moon in 1969, and the rise of Silicon Valley as a powerhouse in the global high-tech industry. The city of Martinez has a population of about 38,000 people. The loss of this news and marketing source will no doubt impact all its residents’ quality of life.

Like many newspapers across our nation, the News-Gazette suffered from declining subscription and advertising sales being taken by social media. This is a story that no doubt will continue to be told as many community newspapers across America close their doors. It’s a dangerous trend that puts at risk the future of our constitutional republic. “Democracy dies by paper cuts,” the saying in the news biz goes. If we lose our free press, we will surely lose our freedoms. History has shown us time after time that when good quality journalism declines, tyranny will rise.

If you care about the future of democracy and want to see our nation continue the experiment set forth by America’s founders nearly 250 year ago, we encourage you to support local journalism. We have noticed in the past several years a steep rise in unfair verbal attacks against the free press by some prominent leaders in politics. This occurs not only on the national level but on the local level as well — especially with untrue and disparaging comments published on social media. This dangerous activity, if it continues, puts in jeopardy our civil liberties. Serving the politicians’ agenda to discredit the reporting that puts an unflattering spotlight on them, it erodes the trust and confidence citizens might hold for journalism. No doubt reporters and editors make mistakes in the accuracy of our reporting as well as typos in our stories, headlines and caption writing. Unintentional human errors in newspaper production, however, does not give politicians the right to attack the press, an institution that serves as the watchdog of our democracy.

Finally, thank you for the support and encouragement many of you in the South Valley community have given us over the years that we have been publishing our local newspapers. We wish everyone in Morgan Hill warm wishes and fun times with your family and friends this holiday season.

Morgan Hill Life Editorial
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