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Newspapers are D.C.'s 'town hall'
(Published October 3, 2005)

Housing projects and redevelopment. Bond issues and rezonings. Taxes and schools. Street repairs and bridge projects. Elections and recalls.

And discussion of it all - back and forth, give and take, pro and con.

Sure, there's the local coffee shop, after-church brunches, public forums. But really, there's only one central place to get all this.

It's your local newspaper.

And that's the theme for this year's National Newspaper Week, Oct. 2-8 "Your Newspaper: Your Community's Town Hall."

Sometimes, that's easy to forget. We get wrapped up in all the other benefits of a newspaper, the ebb and flow of a community. Community events and celebrations. Local sports. Weddings and births. Graduations and deaths. Recipes. Church services. The latest sale at a local store.

Sometimes we tend to overlook one of the most important roles of our local newspapers -- that of a biweekly, weekly or daily town hall meeting, where the latest news of government and schools, as well as other issues in the community, is laid out for all to see.

In the news columns and on the editorial pages, newspapers play an integral role in both supporting and shaping our communities.

News stories explain the issues, from all points of view.

Editorials offer the newspaper's take on those issues and often suggest a course of action.

Letters to the editor give community members a chance to sound off with their own ideas.

And even if the newspaper has missed something of importance, very little gets past the community members who speak up in those letters.

Through newspapers, we have community discussions. We engage one another and debate the issues before us.

Providing that "town hall" is a responsibility the folks at newspapers take seriously. We have to. There is no other avenue that provides such varied opportunities on a regular basis for everyone in the community.

Public forums and community meetings are good only for those who attend and speak up.

Radio and television are limited by air time.

The Internet only works for those with regular access to it.

Newsletters from government officials and neighborhood organizations and school groups typically provide only one point of view, only one side of an issue.

Only a newspaper has the capability and reach -- and mission -- to provide a forum for everyone in the community. To frame the issues and the debate. To offer praise, when deserved, and criticism when needed. And to invite the community into the debate.

This newspaper D.C.'s hometown newspaper strives to be the community's town hall. We welcome your news items and story tips; we encourage you to express your opinions, especially when you have a different point of view. And we wouldn't have it any other way.

Copyright 2005 The Common Denominator