OUR POSITION: Newspapers continue to do their job holding governments and leaders accountable while providing a lifeblood of information to members of a community.

The United States has lost 1,800 newspapers since 2004.

And, while 171 counties in the U.S. have no newspaper, nearly half of the 1,449 counties in the U.S. have only one — and that is often a weekly.

Cities as large as Tampa, where the Tampa Tribune was bought out, and as small as Lime Springs, Iowa, according to the report, have lost a hometown newspaper in recent years. As a matter of fact, one of every five newspapers in the country have shut down.

Those numbers came from the University of North Carolina School of Media and Journalism Center. They paint a bleak picture, but it’s not necessarily a death knell for journalism. No, actually much of the shutting down of newspapers has much to do with mergers and economics. And, the quality of journalism continues to get better.

Many of those mergers have come after newspapers were scooped up by huge publishing companies often funded by investment firms or hedge and pension funds or publicly traded equity groups.

When that happens, more often than naught, newspaper staffs are trimmed and the focus is on a larger area and not the neighborhoods and small communities that were the bread and butter of newspapers for decades.

A newspaper is much more than a source of entertainment. A good newspaper holds its county and city government accountable for their actions. A good newspaper is a watchdog on how your taxes are spent and sniffs out any hint of corruption in government, how the school district is run or how nonprofit groups use their donations. A good newspaper alerts the public to outbreaks of any disease, warns people of crime in their neighborhood, partners with local law enforcement to help catch law-breakers, fights for justice and leads its community into the future.

That is our goal and our mission at the Sun newspapers.

We were fortunate last year that when the Dunn-Rankin family chose to sell its holdings in Charlotte, Sarasota and DeSoto counties to the Adams Publishing Group. We’re not trying to make points with the boss when we say this privately owned company — the fourth largest newspaper group in the U.S. with circulation of more than 1 million and 144 newspapers nationwide — embraces the same ideals we have held true for decades. APG has added staff since buying the Sun — not cutting back, as is the standard practice nowadays.

“Florida’s Sunshine laws protect your right to know and that is why we celebrate Sunshine Law week,” said Mike Beatty, president of Adams Publishing Group Florida. “We are committed to this belief and have staffed our newspapers to continue that mission.

“Newspapers are still the ultimate watchdogs and the public expects us to do our jobs,” said Beatty. “We will continue to do our job.”

As newspapers across the nation recognize Sunshine Week, we pledge to our community to do our job to the best of our ability, to be vigilant, to be fair and to have an open door and a keen ear for the public we serve. It’s more than a business. It’s our responsibility — one forged from centuries of journalists who made a similar pledge and lived, and died, to keep it.


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