Newspaper a reflection

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 8, 2006

of community

Working at a newspaper is an interesting business.

Each day we start from scratch to produce the next day’s edition.

The only thing I really know to compare it to is an artist looking at a blank canvas or a novelist typing on a blank page.

The newspaper is also a forum in which your mistakes forever remain in print.

When I have made a critical error, I make myself feel better with the thought that the edition is used to train puppies or line a bird cage a day after it comes out. (Or, down on the Coast, is used to wrap mullet).

But, the fact remains that in 2006 I can go back and look at an issue of The Selma Times-Journal from 100 years ago – mistakes and all.

To those who choose journalism as a profession, it’s almost a calling – a desire to try to make our little corner of the world better, or at the very least, be an accurate reflection of the community.

And, that’s where the public comes in.

We solicit letters to the editor because the opinion page is a public forum in which any member of the community has an equal opportunity to express their thoughts and concerns.

Local residents send announcements about their engagements, weddings, births of their children, anniversary celebrations, and the notice of a loved one’s death.

We treat each with equal respect, because we know these are the items in the newspaper that get clipped and kept in a scrapbook – because they are important to those readers.

Newspapers have been called the “Fourth Estate,” but this is not an American term.

In fact, the Fourth Estate does not, as some surmise, refer to the newspaper as the fourth branch – along with the legislative, judicial and executive branches of U.S. government.

The term actually goes back to a British political writer, Edmund Burke, who wrote, “there were three Estates in Parliament, but in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a fourth Estate more important than they all.”

Thomas Carlyle, a 19th century writer, adapted the term when he wrote “French Revolution” in 1837.

In the French divisions of society, the First Estate was the clergy, the Second Estate was the nobility, and the Third Estate the working class.

The press has been both revered and criticized throughout history.

J.M. Barrier, the author of “Peter Pan,” said, “The printing press is either the greatest blessing or the greatest curse of modern times, one sometimes forgets which.”

There is little doubt, however, that during times of tyranny, and revolution, a free press always made an impact.

James Madison wrote in 1799, “To the press alone, chequered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity, over error and oppression.”

Our goal at this newspaper is to be a mirror image of our community – for the most part that’s good news: Students doing well in school, churches involved in community projects, fund-raisers and civic groups making a difference.

Occasionally, the mirror image shows the negative side of the community: Crime, lawsuits and city politics mayhem – and that’s part of our job as well. Contrary to what many believe, we don’t relish the negative news. After all, we live here, too and this is our community.

We’d like to hear from you when you have items of community interest. You can e-mail me at .

TAMMY LEYTHAM is editor of The Selma Times-Journal.