By Sen. John Thune
Local newspapers – radio and T.V. stations too – are often the go-to source for everything from Friday’s football scores to keeping up with the city council. These entities are fundamental to our communities, and they have the best pulse on the news that South Dakotans care about the most. National Newspaper Week is a great opportunity to recognize all of the dedicated people who work hard to deliver trusted news and information to communities throughout South Dakota.
Growing up, the Murdo Coyote and the Mitchell Daily Republic were circulated in my hometown. Reading the daily and weekly newspapers was one of the primary ways my family and others in the neighborhood learned about what was happening in our small town. We didn’t – and obviously couldn’t – rely on smartphones or social media. We trusted what we read from fellow South Dakotans – something I still rely on today, both to get the news and to help me do my job in Washington as effectively as possible.
When I’m on the road visiting towns across the state, I know I can pick up the local paper at the gas station, see what’s going on in the community, and trust what I read. Those front pages live on as time capsules of each community’s history. It’s also neat to see how much of a family enterprise some of these local newspapers are these days.
For many readers, picking up the local paper is more than what the city council voted on the night before. It’s about the daily tick-tock of the community. To this day, I love reading the names of high school athletes setting state records and winning state championships.
When I was a kid, having your name printed in the local paper felt like celebrity status. Speaking from experience, young athletes don’t forget the feeling of knowing their accomplishments are being shared with the entire community or stuck to the kitchen refrigerator with a magnet by a proud parent.
This past year, we also learned about the power of our local newspapers when they provided critical information to folks about various health and safety measures throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They, too, were dealing with the realities of the pandemic, including the economic struggle other small businesses across the state faced. In a time when families needed information, South Dakota newspapers were there to provide it.
No newspaper – big or small – is worth its salt without great reporters. Having worked with many of them throughout my time in public service, I can say South Dakota reporters are true professionals. They are out in their communities daily, telling the stories of what it means to be a South Dakotan. No one in a Washington or New York newsroom knows more about what’s important to or happening in South Dakota than those who call South Dakota home.
I am so thankful to our local papers and reporters for their continual commitment to seeing the news as a public service – not a commodity. News isn’t always an easy business, but South Dakotans thank and respect those who help deliver it.