I am a native son of Tracy. More than 35 years ago, my mother taught me to read the Tracy Press. I was so enamored of journalism that I became a journalist. I have worked as a journalist in Sacramento, the Bay Area and our nation’s capital. It is because of all this that I must tell you how disappointed I am that your local newspaper must now cut back its circulation days to two days a week.
The publishers of the Press have not said they will cut back on coverage or on the number of journalists they employ to cover Tracy, but it is not too far a stretch of the imagination to envision they might someday have to consider those measures.
It is obscene. The people of Tracy are allowing the only organization that watches city representatives and staff to expire with little more than a sigh.
Journalists have a mandate: We are charged by the Constitution to keep an eye on people in power and make sure they are accountable to you. This nation’s forefathers, in their wisdom, made journalism the only private profession specifically protected by the Constitution. They knew, as it seems few people in Tracy do, that governments need watching. Society needs people dedicated to the premise of informing all of us about what is going on.
I don’t have time to head down to city hall to see what is on the agenda, run on over to the police department and see if anything is happening in my neighborhood, head up to the state Capitol to find out what laws are proposed, call my congressman and find out what’s happening in Washington, D.C., go to work, make dinner for my family and somehow find some time to sleep and prepare for the next day.
Who do you suppose is doing all of this while you are at work? The only resource the people of Tracy can turn to for daily information about Tracy is the Tracy Press. Without advertising revenue or increased sales, the Press may have to compromise its mandate.
A community newspaper can only exist with the support of the community it serves. Now the Press needs you. It’s only a quarter, for crying out loud! And that’s at the newsstand. It’s free to get the Press at home! Free!
I mean, how much is the safeguarding of your liberty worth to you? How much are you willing to pay to know what your city leaders are doing? Or whether Tracy needs a new high school? Or how candidates for public office stand on the issues important to Tracy?
You have no idea what it is like to live in a place where journalism is nonexistent, where no one shines lights in dark places, where elected officials do as they please because no one is asking questions.
I fear you take the Tracy Press and the work of its editors and journalists for granted. I fear support for it will only decay.
Now, there are some who decry the flaws of coverage within the Press. I have faced my share of critique from the community I serve. I will continue to do so for as long as I am a journalist. The editors, publishers and journalists of the Press are no different. But I warrant they take their charge as seriously as I.
I have a favorite quote by Thomas Jefferson. It is inscribed inside the Jefferson Memorial. It succinctly captures my own ethic while also underscoring the acute need for journalists and a free press: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
If you do not support local journalism, you invite such tyranny.
These are hard economic times, of that there is no doubt. But don’t let the institution of journalism in Tracy be a permanent victim. Thusly is our democracy threatened.
• Michael Langley is a Tracy native and an assistant news director for News 10 in Sacramento.
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