The week of Oct. 1 is National Newspaper Week, an opportunity to recognize the important role newspapers play in our country.
In South Dakota alone, there are 126 newspapers, some of which have been published for more than a century.
Those newspapers employ hardworking reporters and others who work long hours to bring the news to our doorsteps.
In 21st Century America we can sometimes forget that a free press is a priceless thing, often not present in other countries.
We don’t think about the many places around the world where people cannot freely assemble, nor express their beliefs, where there is no freedom of the press and where journalists can be jailed for publishing something about those in government.
We are fortunate America is not one of those places. Here, we recognize that a free society requires a free and independent press.
We know to keep government at all levels in check, we need reporters who ask tough questions, find the facts, present them objectively and present different sides of a policy issue.
As President John F. Kennedy said in his 1961 speech to the American Newspaper Publishers Association, “Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can survive . . . And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment – the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution . . .”
Today, technology has changed the way some of us get our news.
Some prefer reading online news, versus picking up the morning paper. Some are getting their news from social media, blogs and internet sites.
Whatever the medium of delivery, good news reporting must include fact-checking.
Many online sources have failed to do this, but good newspapers have historically been more reliable.
We are seeing newspapers adapt to the changing times by posting stories online.
Many offer e-edition subscription options for those who prefer to read their news on a screen.
We even have some reporters on social media sharing their stories, posting photos and videos and live-tweeting events.
Newspaper organizations are often much more credible than other kinds of online sources.
Newspapers, particularly in South Dakota, are also closer to the people who read them.
Newspaper Week is an occasion to thank those who put in long hours in the newsroom. Don’t let them hear from you only when you are dissatisfied.
When you are happy with something, take a few minutes to send them an email or pick up the phone.
Thank your local reporter for covering the event you organized. Tell them you appreciate their work to cover your local sports team.
Express gratitude when they sit through the whole city council meeting. After all, they’re not just putting ink on a page; they’re preserving our way of life.
Dennis Daugaard is the governor of South Dakota and can be reached here.