A couple weeks ago my daughter Catherine Wynn, who is also managing editor of this newspaper, wrote a column about the importance of newspapers to young people in our communities. We have been sending the print editions of the newspaper to many parents of school-age children in partnership with the school system in the wake of COVID-19, and what better voice to speak to the parents of school-age children than a parent of school-age children.

I hope Catherine’s message resonated with many of you, and by you, I refer to you not only as parents, but the generation that will plot the future ofour community, state and country.

Up until now most of you didn’t really see an urgent need to keep up with what’s going on with the school board, the city council, the governor’s office or the many volunteer organizations that help shape our community. Somebody else was taking care of and worrying about all that. But guess what? It’s your turn, and if you are going to be an effective leader, voter or engaged participant in your community, you need to know what’s going on in your community.

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Catherine mentioned a lot of that in her column, which you can still read on our website. It was her point of view, one you can identify with. But as you probably heard when you were growing up, I’m the dad, and I’ve got a few things to say about the subject, too.

So, bear with me while I give you a dad talk even though you now have kids of your own and are a lot smarter today than you were slightly over a decade or so ago. Here goes. . .

I see a disconnect from a lot of you when it comes to being informed about your community, and the best cure is a subscription to this newspaper, whether you want it in print or electronically. To be engaged, you need to be informed.

Yes, I am being self-serving in a way, because I own this newspaper. But hear me out. If you and many of your friends don’t eventually subscribe, there won’t be a newspaper. That won’t impact me so much, because we are doing OK as a newspaper now, and I will be long gone when that day of reckoning comes, if it comes.

You need a newspaper. The community needs a newspaper. I believe that over the past few weeks as you have read your free newspaper, you have seen how important, comprehensive and interesting it can be. Even with COVID-19 robbing us of local events, there has been plenty to read. I hope that as you read, you remembered those days when mom and dad and grandma and grandpa were so proud to see your name listed on the honor roll or in the sports section for driving in the winning run or making all-district in choir or art.

The stakes are a lot bigger for you now. When I was in my 20s and even early 30s, I was like you, getting my life and career kick-started and worrying more about things I wanted to do than things I needed to do. Other than the sports section, I didn’t have much use for the newspaper.

It was also about that time that I realized I needed to be a better voter, a more engaged member of the community and in tune with the decisions being made that impact my life and the lives of my family.

I started keeping up with the school board because my daughter was in school. I started paying attention to what the city and county leaders did because it impacted my life and my pocketbook. I started paying attention to the wonderful volunteer opportunities around me because I wanted to make a difference.

The newspaper helped me do all that.

When people ask me if I am afraid newspapers will go away in the future because of the internet, I answer that it’s not the internet that scares me, it’s apathy. If newspapers are a dying industry, in small-town America, what options remain?

We can lose the printed version of the newspaper and let people read it all online, and that’s going to happen one of these days. But if we lose the journalism that brings you the truth about board meetings and leaders, no matter the type of media it arrives in, we are losing too much.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Free speech, exercised both individually and through a free press, is a necessity in any country where people are themselves free.”

Amen. A necessity. Social media can inform you and entertain you, and we as a newspaper use it to spread our stories and news that should be important to you. Social media is free speech, often unchecked and highly opinionated.

Imagine a community, though, without a free press. A free press serves not only as watchdog over our government – and the examples of what this newspaper has done to shed light on issues are numerous – but brings you heartwarming stories of citizens and insight on trends and issues. We inform you. We invite discussion. We challenge authority. We motivate you. We make you proud of where you live.

Imagine a community without all that, a community where rumors and fact-less stories abound online, where leaders and rulers tell you what they want you to know, when they want you to know it, because there is no one out there to get to the bottom of the story.

It can happen, and it will happen if there are no vehicles in our future for journalists to share their stories.

How many of you have ever been to a school board or city council meeting?

Be glad we are there. Don’t continue to tune us out.

Is it important that you support your local newspaper? You tell me.

For about what it costs to take your family out for pizza one night, you can get a subscription to the newspaper that includes print delivery once a week and unlimited access to a website that keeps you informed 24/7 for an entire year. You can even go all electronic if you’d like. That’s a small price to pay to keep journalism alive and allow you to become engaged in your community. The choice is up to you.