As the new year begins, the Daily Journal recommits to its readers our continued best efforts to follow the principles that have guided the paper for most of its history. Among the written expressions of those principles still applicable today is the essay “A Good Newspaper Builds Community,” written by George McLean, the Journal’s owner and executive editor for almost 50 years before his death in 1983, and excerpted below.
The good newspaper should be a catalyst in its community, oiling the efforts of widely varying groups to achieve a reasonably smooth, balanced flow of progress. It seeks to provide coherence to scattered and sometimes conflicting objectives, enabling its community to get a better view of priorities and ways in which joint efforts may prove better than splintered activities.
The good newspaper is its community’s encourager which by making known what groups and individuals are doing brings mutual support for each other’s projects and invites still greater personal initiative. It is a community’s semi-official provider of pats on the back through news stories, pictures or editorials. The good newspaper can contribute perhaps more than any other institution to development of an active, mutually serving citizenship.
The good newspaper seeks to promote a spirit of neighborliness, by the features it carries on the activities, the hopes and concerns of the “average” citizen. The good newspaper knows most life is lived by small people and their activities deserve a word, however brief, in reporting the news. It seeks ways to say “yes” rather than “no” to requests from its readers or the general public. It is warm, not cold; flexible, not rigid, in meeting each day’s challenges.
The good newspaper should be a friend of its community, limiting criticism to needs for improvements rather than condemning shortcomings.
The good newspaper carries stories about progressive undertakings and methods, which can be profitably imitated by its own community, recognizing that the good example of others is frequently effective; creating the impression that “if others can do it, so can we.”
The good newspaper will not merely report but will enlighten, recognizing that the typical citizen may be limited in his understanding of government, economics, human relations, etc., but frequently is eager for broader understanding when the information is presented in an interesting, credible manner.
The staff of the good newspaper develops expertise not merely to propose progress, but to assume active leadership in bringing it about even though this involves leaving the impartial, isolated ivory tower and involves one in activities which may stir controversy.
The good newspaper is one of the hardest workers and most generous givers in civic affairs but does not seek to dominate the community in a way that causes others to say, “Let the paper do it.”
The good newspaper is an economic tool for personal and community progress. It recognizes its advertising as being of major value to the community as is its news and should try to maintain the integrity of its ads as it does that of news stories.
The good newspaper serves as an educational institution, takes up where a college degree or institutional walls may stop, teaches life as it actually is being lived without effort to conceal human frailties but seeks to help maintain faith and hope in human potential and human progress, emphasizes the good more than the bad.
The good newspaper reaches out as far as it can touch or see to bring to its readers new ideas, new approaches to life, new methods of meeting problems, and new information which adds interest or joy to life. The good newspaper recognizes that boredom is one of the great burdens in many lives; therefore it does not hesitate to provide entertainment and pleasure as well as educational material. But at all times seeks to maintain good taste throughout its columns.
The good newspaper adopts as one of its major objectives the unobtrusive establishment of a definite tone in its community built around high ethical standards, a cooperative spirit, a broadly based tolerance among all groups, a yearning for personal and community growth, a belief in God, service to man and hope for a better tomorrow.