The A-T proud to be ‘the mirror’ of the Tiffin area

“Newspapers are the world’s mirrors.”

This quote by James Ellis sums up one of my core beliefs about the important role our industry plays. I’ve shared a version of the quote in speaking at Rotary Clubs, at college campuses and while giving tours of our facilities to young students.

It is something that all of us who work in the news must understand and carry forth as a mission.

The mirror of a community. Inside the pages of our newspapers, that could mean a well-composed photo of children at a community event. It could mean a story and photo of the athletic triumphs of a local high school. It certainly means sharing the stories and glimpses of people, which is the charge I’ve given to our staff — try and get as many names and faces into our paper as possible.

But, like a mirror, this could also mean revealing blemishes and truths some may want to conceal. It’s not being afraid to talk about the challenging, dividing topics. It’s attending a local governmental meeting so that the public knows what goes into a taxpayer-funded decision. It’s examining numbers and trends and making sense of what they mean to the average person.

We strive to serve this important role as we want to give an independent look at what life is like in Northwest Ohio in 2020. A hundred years from now, when all of us are gone, we want people to be able to open our pages and get a little slice of what it was like being here during this time.

When I speak of this type of function of a local newspaper, I wouldn’t blame you if a certain image comes to mind. Maybe a group of stodgy editors peering over their community, glaring into the cracks, looking for wrongdoing to be exposed. Ready to fight, journalists who are looking for any way to knock that leader or community institution down a peg or two.

I believe our national narrative creates that image of the local media. Distrust and perceived political affiliation cause some to think the local media is ineffective and biased.

Spend a day inside the editorial department of our papers, and you’ll see a different picture. You’ll see a cross-section of people who all have different interests and perspectives. You’ll see people who live in this area, people who shop at the same stores and do the same things on weekends as you do. You’ll see a group of fun-loving people who genuinely want a vibrant and successful community, and who are always trying new ways to tell stories about the people who make up the heartbeat of this area.

You will hear conversations about what events to cover, which meetings to attend and which inspirational person to feature on the front page. You’ll hear banter about which local teams have the best chance at making a deep postseason run, and what is the quickest way to get from one side of the town to another.

You will hear that chatter that makes the local paper what it is — a caring, important part of a community. A mirror, if you will.

As someone who is a second-generation newspaper leader, I am troubled by some of the trends of our industry. According to a recent Poynter Institute study, coverage of at least 900 communities in our country has gone dry since 2004. There are more and more places that are without a newspaper, and those places are now more susceptible to corruption.

It’s not just in small communities where this could happen. In the Buckeye State’s own Youngstown, the local paper, The Vindicator, announced it was shutting down in the summer of 2019. Luckily, Ogden Newspapers, the parent company of The Courier, The Advertiser-Tribune and Review Times, purchased the Vindicator’s masthead, URL and subscriber list, making sure the paper and its spirit remained in tact. But Youngstown, one of Ohio’s nine largest cities and a place that once had 170,000 residents, was alarmingly close to being without a local paper.

We are proud to serve the this area and look forward to continue sharing the triumphs, heartbreaks, projects, plans, successes and failures for years and years to come.

When we look at the mirror that is a local newspaper, we see ourselves in addition to all of our readers, which is why we’ll keep taking pride in describing what we see as delicately and accurately as possible.

Jeremy Speer is the publisher of The Courier in Findlay, The Advertiser-Tribune in Tiffin and the Review Times in Fostoria. He can be reached at jeremyspeer@thecourier.com or jspeer@advertiser-tribune.com.