The state of journalism

Published 11:30 am Wednesday, March 5, 2014

As the waning hours of my time here at The Prentiss Headlight tick by, it was an honor to have the opportunity last Wednesday as one of my last duties to accompany Bassfield High School journalism students on a field trip to our printing press in Brookhaven.

Melissa Martin’s class of nine students seemed like typical teenagers, quiet and slightly uninterested, until it was time for questions. They piped up with pertinent queries about the news business. Modern technology is all they have known, and it has made their lives vastly different from students just five years ago. They rightly question the future of a business that is at a tipping point. Paper, compared to their smartphones, seems archaic.

Another recent truly great experience was mentoring Prentiss High School senior Truely Goode (truly, that is her name). PHS hosted a mentoring program for seniors this year. We met a couple of times this semester to give her to a taste of community journalism. Truely has plans of attending the University of Southern Mississippi in the fall and majoring in journalism. She wants be become an investigative journalist. Gosh, could we use an investigative journalist in Prentiss.

A few weeks ago there was a shooting at the BP gas station. To date, we have not reported on it in our paper.

Allegedly, two men beat up another man inside the store. Those two men departed the store, and the assaulted man went outside to his vehicle and retrieved a gun and began firing shots. One of his assailants was shot, but did not die. Both got away. Bystanders saw the gunman later handcuffed by Prentiss police, but no arrest was made.

There is no proof of any of the facts in this story. The police are not talking due to the incident still being under investigation. Store employees now say nothing happened inside the store. Facebook was rampant with rumors.

The Prentiss Headlight reported nothing. Our new editor, Holley Cochran reminded me that we are not  48 Hours or Dateline NBC. But an investigative reporter would be nice to have in the interest of giving more support to the community.

I read a story recently of the Saguach Crescent located in Colorado that is the only newspaper in America, and maybe the world, still using the old linotype machine to set copy.

The Crescent’s editor is the only employee and doesn’t have time to go hunting for news. He prints what people bring in, as long as all the news is good news; no bad news is printed. An obituary is as bad as it gets. “Everybody will find out about the bad things” in other places.

Perhaps we skip the bad news, but if you’ve got a kid who likes to go to the BP for a slice of Pizza, I think it’s important to let the public know a gun was discharged in the parking lot, that is if it really happened.

Monday, March 3 was National Read Across America Day and many community leaders traveled to the elementary schools to read a book to kids. I read to some Carver Elementary kindergartners, Sam and The Firefly, by P.D. Eastman. Every kid in the class raised their hand that they enjoy the Kid’s Page in The Headlight. How heartening that kids read the local paper.

The future of our newspaper depends on young people who will inherit our humble method of news disbursement known as The Prentiss Headlight.