I believe in newspapers.

Well, that's no surprise, you might say; you're the executive director of the newspaper association for Kansas.

That's true, but I sincerely believe those words.


It's simple: In a newspaper career that now spans more than four decades, I have witnessed hundreds of times how the power of the printed word and the timely photograph can spark change in our culture.

I've seen communities rise to the occasion because local editors believed when citizens are presented all facets of complex issues, they will challenge their leaders to make the right decisions.

Time after time, I've seen controversial issues dealt with and resolved when reporters did their best to lay out all the facts for readers and when editors followed up by providing reasoned commentary urging the community to act.

It might be that this special week of Oct. 5 through 11 -- what we in the industry affectionately call National Newspaper Week -- might more accurately be called National Journalism Week. Because it's really journalism we celebrate.

Journalism, Merriam Webster's Dictionary says, is the practice of gathering, processing and disseminating news and information to an audience.

For the first two centuries in America, we presented journalism to a mass audience through newspapers, then added radio and television to the mix.

Today, journalism is disseminated in all those ways and also through the World Wide Web to our computers, tablets and smartphones.

You might not even realize it, but you're "reading a newspaper" even when you're on the newspaper's website or reading a story that has been scraped from a newspaper website and added to sometimes tens of thousands of other websites around the world.

In whatever way it is delivered, what makes it journalism is it is accurate, fair, balanced and comprehensive. It has context and depth.

Part of the reason journalism still thrives is because our Founding Fathers recognized the importance of freedom of thought and penned the First Amendment to our nation's Constitution.

Their words were powerful, and they were specific: "Congress shall make no law," they said, "respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

What visionaries they were; they realized citizens had to be protected from a tyrannical government and that the best way to do that was by guaranteeing the freedom of expression.

This week, we Americans celebrate the First Amendment, newspapers, journalism and the over-arching need for an informed citizenry in a democratic society.

Doug Anstaett is executive director of the Kansas Press Association,

headquartered in Topeka.