"The chosen theme for this year’s National Newspaper Week is 'Power of the Press,' and that power, it seems to me, is a very relative thing. Everybody understands the power of, say, The New York Times or The Washington Post, but probably less recognized and appreciated is the power of the Deer Creek Pilot and the thousands of other small, community newspapers just like it all across the land.
"In survey after survey, it is these little community-minded newspapers that are continuing to thrive. And there are some very tangible, observable reasons for that, not the least of which might be the notion I share that the smaller the community, the more important its newspaper.
"For more than 20 years now, I have put out a little country weekly that’s been published continuously for 138 years in what most folks might consider Backwater, U.S.A., the two poorest counties in the poorest state in the union with a combined population of less than 6,500 men, women and children.
"And it is neither flippant nor hyperbolic when I say that little country weekly newspaper is the only news organization on the planet Earth that gives the first tinker’s damn about Sharkey and Issaquena counties, Miss. That, folks, is what makes the Deer Creek Pilot mighty, mighty important to those people who call that place home.
"While mine might serve as prime example, it is in that respect no different from all those other community newspapers in all those other towns in this country.
"Community newspapers have the power to bring about great good and make a profound difference within their locales. And among the good ones, the ones who endure and even prosper, there is always to be found one common denominator: trust.
"In a small town, every newspaper subscriber thinks he or she is a stockholder, because there exists a real relationship, an implied contract, if you will, between that paper and its readers.
"They buy your newspaper, advertise in your newspaper, sometimes even when they don’t have to, based on a simple precept: They trust you to do your very best to find the truth and to tell it to them.
"News travels fast in a small town; bad news travels even faster, but all too often that 'news' is no such thing. All too often, that 'news' is little more than rumor, sometimes made up out of whole cloth and at best some grain of truth exaggerated in its retellings vastly, and often alarmingly out of proportion.
"In a small town, readers expect their newspaper to separate the wheat from the chaff and then to 'tell it like it is.'"