By Suzanne McBride—THE HUNGER WE HAVE for news and information at this chaotic and confusing time demonstrates the important role the media plays in helping us navigate our ever-changing world. Now more than ever it’s imperative that each of us look for reliable information that has been confirmed by credible and authoritative sources we trust.
Where did your family member get the information he posted on Facebook? How did your friend get the information she posted on Twitter? Did the that information come from trained journalists reporting on the coronavirus? Or was your relative or friend simply sharing something they heard somewhere?
The “free” information that many of us get when we go online each day is not actually free.
This is the time when the importance of journalism, especially at the local level, is clear, and that’s why I’m asking each of you to make a commitment to support one local media outlet that’s helping you stay informed in this critical time. Whether it’s one of Chicago’s daily newspapers, a radio or television station, or an online site that covers your community, each of these outlets depends on your business to keep going and be able to provide the invaluable information you’ve come to rely on.
Well before the coronavirus crisis hit, hundreds of local newspapers over the last decade had closed, and many more now are in jeopardy. The “free” information that many of us get when we go online each day is not actually free. Journalists have to shift through a great deal of information; interview reluctant or fearful sources; confirm facts that are often complicated and convoluted; verify the veracity of video and photos submitted to them; produce coherent stories on deadline – and then do it all again later sometimes that same day.
At most media organizations, advertising, subscriptions and/or memberships used to cover the costs of reporters, photographers, editors and other journalists, but that’s not the case anymore at many places. Throughout the United States, news outlets have laid off employees, slashed their workers’ pay, furloughed staff members or had to shut down altogether. Your help is needed to prevent that from happening here in Chicago. Your support of even a few dollars a week can make all the difference.
Here are some of the many local news organizations I hope you’ll consider subscribing to or becoming a member. Please know this is not an exhaustive list:
In a time of so much uncertainty when many of our budgets are already strained, I appreciate your willingness to support media institutions that help keep us informed about our democracy. Thank you!
Suzanne McBride is Chair of the Communication Department at Columbia College Chicago and an editor at the Chicago Sun-Times. She is also editor and publisher of AustinTalks.org, an online news site that covers Chicago’s West Side. She had her Fulbright in Ireland.