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Opinion: U.S. Senator Manchin on the value of local newspapers

Celebrating National Newspaper Week

For as long as our great nation has existed, newspapers have been part of the fabric that strengthens our democracy and makes our communities stronger.

U.S. Senate Joe Manchin

Before James Madison became our 4th U.S. President, he wrote the Bill of Rights and enshrined the freedom of the press into the First Amendment of the Constitution. The First Amendment guarantees the unabridged freedom of speech and has allowed newspapers to act as the “Fourth Estate,” watching over our three branches of government holding our government and elected officials accountable.

From day to day and week to week, our newspapers deliver the information that keeps our residents well-informed of what is happening around the state so that they can make thoughtful decisions and engage in our communities.

During Newspaper Week, we recognize the community service newspapers and their employees have provided throughout the history of our country, and the great work they continue to do today.

Here in West Virginia, you don’t have to look very far to see the impact that our newspapers are having. In July, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported on a troubling increase in child homelessness in our state – 10,522 students were counted as homeless during the 2018-2019 school year, and the real number could be much higher.

That’s absolutely unacceptable, and that’s why I have been working ever since I learned of this spike in youth homelessness to ensure homeless children are receiving the federal resources they need.

In August, the Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram reported that the death of a Vietnam Veteran at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, WV, was a homicide, and at least 10 other suspicious deaths had taken place there. The Exponent-Telegram’s report brought horrific crimes to light, and I am confident that this newspaper’s pursuit of the truth will continue to bring much-needed answers to families who have lost loved ones. I’m doing everything in my power as a member of Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to get to the bottom of what happened.

Beyond the big headlines, the everyday things our newspapers do make our communities better. They are there for city council meetings, local elections, and fairs and festivals. They highlight the people who are making a difference. They tell stories that would otherwise go untold.

Our West Virginia newspapers and journalists play such an important public service role – they are the eyes and ears of our state.

Because of the work that they do day in and day out, our democracy works the way it was intended to work. They bring forth the truth, shine a light on the issues we face, give a voice to those who are voiceless, and move our state forward. Despite the changes in technology, our newspapers continue to be a critical resource for communities across our state.

With so much going on across our state, in Washington and around the world, I’m glad that West Virginians are still able to pick up the newspaper to catch up on the news. Thank you to our local newspapers, and all of our members of the media, for dedicating your lives and work to keeping our communities informed.

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