Questions sometimes arise about what we do at the Wilkes Journal-Patriot and why.

This is understandable when you consider that we’re a community service organization, news and information provider, community advocate/promoter, commentator, government watchdog and more – like most traditional newspapers.

We strive to keep people informed through our news coverage, and in effect publish a first draft of local history as it happens each issue.

People sometimes ask us how much they need to pay when they submit announcements of upcoming community events and other news items and are surprised to learn that there’s no charge.

The WJP still runs obituaries for free but there is a limit on the types of information these can include, so we also accept paid obituaries with few limits on content. The cost is based on length, with no additional charge for a photo and for running the same obituary and photo on our website (www.journalpatriot.com).

Research last year by the Media Insight Project, an initiative involving the American Press Institute, found that nearly three of 10 Americans surveyed didn’t know the difference between an editorial and news.

Over four out of 10 didn’t know the meaning of “attribution.” (For newspapers, “attribution” means identifying who made a statement in a news article.)

Except for opinionated statements attributed to who made them in news articles, opinions are limited to editorials, columns, letters to the editor and political cartoons on our editorial pages. We sometimes publish more opinionated columns on op-ed (opposite editorial) pages. If an issue has an op-ed page, it will appear immediately after the editorial page.

The WJP publishes editorials, opinioned columns and letters to the editor to further inform and engage readers and to make them think about what they believe. We love hearing what our readers think in letters to the editor, but we don’t publish anonymous letters.

No aspect of the work of a community (non-daily) newspaper like the WJP is more important than reporting on local elected governing bodies. These often aren’t the articles that draw the most attention, but nonetheless this is our responsibility.

State and federal governments get more attention, but local government and local school officials are the primary decision makers concerning the things that affect the quality of your life on a daily basis - public safety, public schools, land use planning, recreational facilities and much more.

We cover local governing bodies with an eye on their compliance with laws concerning announcement of public meetings, what can and can’t be discussed behind closed doors and which records are available to the media and public.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution understood the importance of watchdog newspapers when they approved the First Amendment, which includes, “Congress shall make no law 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.”

Therefore, the First Amendment entrusted newspapers with certain sacred responsibilities. For our newspaper, this includes reporting on and helping readers understand the actions and discussions of the Wilkes County, North Wilkesboro, Wilkesboro, Ronda and the Wilkes County School elected governing bodies.

Governing bodies have a tendency to forget that they are conducting the public’s business and a good newspaper serves as a reminder that they should do it in the open for everyone to see in accordance with law.

We believe this makes them more accountable for their actions and therefore more apt to make good decisions.

The WJP embraces all of these purposes while trying to make a profit and help others do the same through advertising.

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