Archived Opinion

All information is not created equally

op frGoogle is a wonderful thing, but it sometimes makes things harder for journalists. That’s why a new emphasis on transparency among newspapers and news sites may be one of the measures that helps save real journalism and differentiates it from all that other stuff out there on the web.

“In the digital world, where information is infinite and infinitely replicable, being transparent … helps distinguish journalism from other content on the web,” writes Martin Moore, the executive director of the Media Standards Trust, in a blog post that listed the arguments in favor of transparency.

What exactly does that mean? It means newspapers tell you who wrote a story, who they talked to in order to get the information in the story, what documents we got our eyes on in order to report a story. We credit photos and other information. We encourage readers to respond to or criticize our stories. We print corrections if something inaccurate does get printed and encourage people to tell us when we’re wrong. We encourage opinionated, spirited debate on our editorial pages.

For traditional journalists, transparency has always been commonplace. It’s what we do. But today the notion of journalistic objectivity is being challenged on many levels. Sometimes readers don’t notice the difference between a blog site that simply disguises biased information as real, objective news. And as the digital information universe continues to grow exponentially, those of us who want to make a living reporting the news must try ever harder to let information consumers — readers — know the difference between what we do and what else is out there.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the fact that I can go online and find out what hundreds of people think about Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget or President Obama’s nuclear negotiations with Iran. It’s an embarrasment of information riches. But those of us who make a living producing information want readers to know that all information is not created equally.

Look, this business is changing rapidly, so in a sense we are fighting for our lives. From 2003 to 2012, the Pew Research Center reported that 16,200 jobs were lost in newspaper newsrooms in the U.S. In the last decade, 5,000 new full-time digital editorial jobs have been created. Even counting some of those job losses as recession-related, it’s a challenging landscape for journalists, newspapers, and digital news sites.

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Only a handful of the 300 or so all-digital news sites are profitable. I’m talking a dozen, perhaps, according to the reports I’ve read. The takeaway is that consumers want news digitally, but almost all purely digital news sites aren’t profitable and can’t sustain themselves

Meanwhile, people here in the mountains and throughout the country want and need the local news and information that papers like ours — and the other quality newspapers in this region — provide. I know we at The Smoky Mountain News take our job very seriously and push our editors, reporters, sales staff and designers to do quality work. 

Last week, the N.C. Press Association announced its award winners in both news and advertising, and our staff’s work was recognized as among the best in state. The awards we won (see infobox above) show that others in the industry (the judges) think we’re doing good work. 

Those awards feel good, and as a publisher and editor they make me extremely proud of the work produced by our staff. But the real judges are you, the readers. Our job is to prove to you every week that we can provide quality work that is credible and that makes it worth your time to pick up a paper or read us online. In the end, that — and our survival — will be the only measure of success that counts.

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)


Smoky Mountain News 2014 Awards


Special Awards

• Community Service — First Place, Staff

• General Excellence – Second Place, Staff

• Duke University Award for Distinguished Newspaper Work in Higher Education, Staff

• N.C. Bar Association Media and the Law Award, Holly Kays 

First Place

• Passing on the Songs of Appalachia, JAM feature, Jeremy Morrison

• Community Coverage, SMN staff

• Best Niche Publication, Beverly Hanks

• Investigative Reporting, Becky Johnson

Second Place

• General News, Becky Johnson

• Profile Feature, Garret K. Woodward

Third Place

• Investigative Reporting, Becky Johnson

• News Feature, Holly Kays

• News Enterprise, Becky Johnson

• General Excellence for Websites, Travis Bumgardner


Special Awards

• Metro (Newspaper with most awards in each newspaper category)

First place

• Best Food Ad — K&M Express

• Best Color Restaurant/Entertainment Ad — Joey’s Pancake House

• Best Color Apparel, Jewelry & Accessory Ad — Pioneer Supply

• Best Use of Color — Bourbon Barrel Beef & Ale

• Best Newspaper Promotion — SMN Q&A

• Best Online Advertising — Smoky Mountain Steel Horses

• Best Single Sheet Insert — Ethos Wealth Group

• Best Retail Ad in Niche Publication — The 1945 Old House 

Second Place

• Best Innovated Concept/Wild Card — Mud Run Poster

• Best Advertising Campaign — Complete Laser

• Best Niche Publication — Beverly Hanks Welcome Magazine

• Best Shared Page in a Niche Publication — SM Living Gallery Guide

• Best Restaurant/Entertainment Ad in a Niche Publication — Smoky Mountain Folk Festival

Third Place

• Best Real Estate Ad — Pinnacle

• Best Black & White Restaurant Ad — Village Bistro

• Best Black & White Apparel, Jewelry or Accessory Ad — Lake  Junaluska

• Best Use of Color — Classic WineSeller

• Best Restaurant/Entertainment Ad in a Niche Publication — DWA   Quilt Trail

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