- Monday, 15 July 2019
- Written by MARGARET DICKSON
Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. published a column earlier this month in the Raleigh News and Observer with the arresting headline, “What will we do when there are no newspapers?”
Friends have told me that they do not use electronic readers because they prefer the physical feel of actual books, and others say the same about reading newspapers instead of online editions. It is the same sentiment regarding two different forms of communication, and the difference is, of course, that books are static. They do not change unless their authors issue updated editions. Newspapers, by nature, are different every day and require daily — now hourly, even second-to-second updates. As do broadcast and electronic media, they require massive volumes of information, hard news and many other kinds of stories, that require large staffs and vast amounts of money to churn out regularly.
That is one of the main reasons the newspaper — as we have known it since the inception of the United States and even before — is endangered. Newspaper readers fret about their shrinking size, both physically and in terms of content. Another big reason for their decline is that newspapers appear once a day, and much of what they tell us we already know from the internet, television and radio. The internet, CNN and other media tell us in seconds what we used to find out the next morning in our daily paper.
If — maybe when — newspapers as we know them do disappear, there will still be news, of course. The internet, CNN and other media will surely keep us informed about what the president is up to, which aspect of climate change is currently scaring us to death and what Prince Harry, Meghan and baby Archie are doing over the weekend. What we will have a much harder time learning is what our local legislative delegation is doing for — or to — us in Raleigh or when the governor is coming to town. If no one is reporting on our city council or county commissioners, it is more convenient for us to attend those meetings ourselves than it is to take a road trip to the General Assembly in Raleigh. Realistically, though, most of us are not going to make the effort.
Hence, Leonard Pitts’ scary column, which points out a 2018 University of North Carolina School of Media and Journalism report that we have lost nearly 1,800 newspapers across our nation since 2004. The future is upon us, and it looks devoid of newspapers and local and regional journalism.
Here is how Pitts describes our situation.
“The passing of newspapers would have a devastating impact on the coverage of local events. The hole they leave would not be filled by CNN, whose original reporting tends to center on national — usually political — news. It would not be filled by local TV, whose original reporting tends to begin and end with street crime, weather and sports. And it would not be filled by social media, whose original reporting tends to be nonexistent.
“Bottom line, it would not be filled. If you’re living in a news desert and the mayor is crooked, the cops corrupt or the businessmen pervy, how would you know? Chances are, you would not.”
The demise of newspapers is a clear case of not appreciating what we have until we lose it. We newspaper readers have taken it for granted that local and regional reporters will keep us informed about actions that affect us, especially governmental actions. We have taken it for granted that local newspaper editorial staffs will help interpret the world around us and what it means for us and our families.
It is increasingly our own responsibility to find outlets we can trust not just to feed us their points of view but to give us concrete and truthful information. It is increasingly our own responsibility to interpret what we learn and what it means for our communities.
It is all we can do until new local and regional media emerge in whatever forms they take.
- Monday, 08 July 2019
- Written by JIM JONES
History is often a traveler's best companion. I read a book titled "Here Is Where: Discovering America's Great Forgotten History" by Andrew Carroll. In the book, Carroll tells the story of Dr. Joseph Goldberger, who used prisoners in Mississippi as a control group to find a cure for pellagra. Pellagra is a disease caused by low levels of niacin, also known as vitamin B-3. It can be fatal.
In the chapter titled "Sparks: Inventions and Technological Advancements," Carroll opens with the story of Calendonia Correctional Institution. David M. Williams of Godwin, North Carolina, is the focus in this part of the story. Williams was accused of killing Cumberland County Deputy Al Pate on July 22, 1921, during a raid on a moonshine still. The evidence was mostly circumstantial, but Williams pleaded insanity. At the trial, one juror was convinced he was insane, resulting in a mistrial. At retrial, Williams pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in fear of a life sentence or the electric chair.
In 1921, while in prison, Williams eventually was able to work in the metal shop. Williams was talented with firearms, and he began working on a design for a new gun. With the help, trust and encouragement of the prison's superintendent, Captain H. T. People, Williams invented what became the most influential weapon invention in history, the short-stroke piston. The design allowed the breach of a semi-automatic weapon to travel less distance and provide a faster reload capability. This invention led to the production of a shorter, lighter and more dependable rifle, the M1 carbine.
By the end of the 1920s, Superintendent People, North Carolina Gov. Angus McLean, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Cumberland County Sheriff N. H. McGeachy and, reportedly, Pate's widow lobbied to have Williams pardoned. Williams was pardoned and was hired by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.
In 1941, Winchester won a contract with the military to build the M1 carbine. In Carroll's book, he reports that 8 million M1s were produced for Word War II and the Korean War. It was reported that Gen. MacArthur stated the M1 carbine was "one of the strongest contributing factors in our victory in the Pacific."
I did some further research and discovered that in 1952, Jimmy Stewart starred in a movie called "Carbine Williams." I downloaded it from iTunes and enjoyed watching it. During my research, I learned there is a historical marker in Godwin, and that Williams is buried not far from there, at the Old Bluff Presbyterian Church near Wade, North Carolina.
Times are changing, and so are our ways of finding new spots and recommendations. Lately, I've been turning to social media. On Facebook, you can type in the place you want to go and ask for a recommendation. Usually, some nice person will help you out.
Recently, I've been trying to get my head around Instagram and have discovered a few things. If I type in some place I want to go, I can search for pictures and see places that people have tagged. Once I see something I like, I just message the person that posted the picture to ask them more information about the picture or where it was taken. Most of the time, people will be kind enough — maybe even excited — to help because you enjoyed their work.
Traveling and learning are just great companions, and you do not have to go across the country to find a little history.
Oh, and about Williams. I will leave you this thought. Although Williams certainly took his time in prison, he turned an evil act into a historychanging moment. What about People? If People had not recognized Williams' genius and not given him the latitude to work in that metal shop, how would World War II and the Korea Wars have turned out? Due to the superior firepower that the M1 carbine gave the U.S., I would suspect our casualty rates at the least would have been much higher, and history would be different.
It is reported that by the time Williams died at the age of 74, he had between 40 to 60 patents.
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