Posted on

Newspapers give readers the information they need

The pattern at last month’s Medford School Board meeting was typical when a hot-button topic is on an agenda.

At the start of the meeting, the room was overflowing with parents, community members and would-be civil rights advocates worked into a frenzy over COVID-19 protocols.

As is their right, they had their opportunity to address the board and air their grievances and concerns. Board members then took what they heard, had a lengthy discussion and enacted policy changes based on that discussion. The board members did their jobs, discussing a complex issue and bringing it to a vote.

By any measure, having a standing room-only crowd at a public meeting is news. Passion and controversy grab headlines and generate soundbites that dominate broadcast media. It was what people were talking about for days afterward.

As is also typical, after that particular agenda item was addressed, board members moved on to the other items on their agenda and the room went from packed to mostly empty.

The number of spectators further dwindled as the board went to a very dense, hour-long discussion about potential changes to school employee health insurance plans and then on to another lengthy, dense discussion about ongoing facility needs at the high school. In between they made personnel decisions, reviewed policies and listened to reports.

All of these other items were also newsworthy, although falling into the “boring but important” category. Insurance changes not only impact the household budgets of school staff and their families, but hit taxpayers in their pocketbooks. Likewise, school facility discussions bring in debates on cost versus benefits and the important role public facilities have as a component of economic development efforts. Newspaper coverage of the school board meeting did not end when the crowd left and the exciting part was over. As it has done since 1875, The Star News covered all the news from the meeting, not just the obvious attention-grabbing items.

Not all news is flashy or exciting. Not every game ends up with a thrilling overtime win, most are just won with boots on the ground plays and 5 yard carries. The same is true with governments, they are groups of people doing their best with the resources and information they have at hand. Just as the armchair quarterbacks debate plays on Monday morning, residents get to review the plays called by local government officials. It is up to voters and the hindsight of history to decide if those choices were good or bad.

Last week marked National Newspaper Week, it is a week highlighting the role newspapers have serving as watchdogs on the power government and keeping readers informed about what is going on in their community and beyond. While the media market place has grown, community newspapers such as The Star News continue our commitment to coverage that goes beyond salacious headlines and out of context soundbites, to include the “boring but important” things that are relevant to our readers and our communities.