Home Opinion COLUMN: What is a newspaper?

COLUMN: What is a newspaper?

“I don’t know how to run a newspaper Mr. Thatcher, I just try everything I can think of.” – Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) “Citizen Kane”

So, what is a newspaper? Interesting question. In his portrayal of media magnate Charles Foster Kane, Orson Welles said, “The Chronicle is a good idea for a newspaper.” But what makes a good newspaper?

Is it the stories, is it the facts, is it the comics, is it the personals or is it the classifieds? Actually, it’s a combination of all that…and more.

The stories that we tell are written to inform, to teach, to make you think, to make you aware and, in some instances, to make you emotional.

Think about that: if something you read can inform you, teach you, make you inquisitive, make you observe something or bring you to emotion, that’s more than just entertainment…it’s educational.

R.C. Hoiles, late publisher of the Orange County Register, once said that the editorial page of a newspaper is “a daily school room made available to its subscribers.”

Today, too many views and opinions are strictly politically based. Friends have been lost over political ideology. Families have to watch what is said as they break bread with their loved ones.

Victimology is a virus. Our society has become so litigious, people are afraid to become close to one another. What someone said 15 years ago comes back to haunt them today, no matter how minimal. Young and ignorant is a legitimate answer to the question, “What were you thinking?”

So, Mr. Newspaper reporter guy, how do we fix it? How do we fix the national narrative of victimhood and excessive litigation?

We fix it by beginning at home. Have family dinners. Insist that the kids turn off their phones or devices. Turn off the television…and talk. Discuss the day. Discuss the next day. Talk about things that bring the family together. Regardless of what kind of glares and eye rolls that your children may give you, they will appreciate what you have to say and they will know that you appreciate what THEY have to say.


Restore the traditional Sunday dinners at 6 p.m. Get the entire family together. Aunts, Uncles but especially Grandparents. Make it a mandatory 6 p.m. dinner and attendees must be there on time.

In the 2005 motion picture “The Lost City,” Don Federico Fellove is perturbed at his son Fico for being late to supper: “Sunday dinner is not…A moveable feast…All my sons are welcome, but not…Not after 6. And it is 6 and 3 minutes, Fico.”

So, what can this do? It can begin a dialogue between the young and the seasoned. It can start a closer bond between family members. It can dissuade the noise that has manifested itself throughout society that has caused so many problems and has broken down the lines of communication between the ages.

I began this column with the question of what is a newspaper?

In his October 1958 speech to the Radio Television Digital News Association convention in Chicago, Edward R. Murrow said about television, “This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and even it can inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it’s nothing but wires and lights in a box.”

A newspaper can do the same. However, it does it without the instant gratification. When you read it, you absorb what you read. You are able to think about what you read. You are able to make your own judgements about what you read, without the unwarranted influence of a television talking head.

Throughout his career, Walter Cronkite reported the news and let us make our own decisions. I can only hope that when we return to making our own decisions, change will occur. It’s up to all of us to try.

Enjoy your dinner.

Christopher McDonald is an accomplished educator and military veteran with experience in print and radio. Reach him at cmcdonald@richmondobserver.com.

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