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Let local media have access

From the Publisher
By 
Kathleen Gilluly Laurel Outlook Editor And General Manager
Thursday, September 3, 2020

As newspapers are often the only accessible and permanent public record of events and news, the industry is considered essential and rightfully so. Without the freedom to access meetings, high school games or events, we lose our history and eventually Democracy.

The excellent photographer who volunteers to record sports events for us was denied entry to the Roundup/Joliet cross country meet Monday evening. While I understand and support county boards of health and school limitations on spectators, denying entry to the press is more intrusive than disallowing parents to attend games, and the repercussions could be worse. Freedom of the Press is enshrined in the Bill of Rights as the 1st Amendment to the Constitution to protect all of us.

Apparently, the Yellowstone County Board of Health met with a number of high school athletic/activities directors on August 4 and voted to disallow spectators at games. According to Brad Molnar’s “Pot Potpourri” column this week, the meeting wasn’t properly noticed so the press and public weren’t aware of it, as required by Montana Code Annotated and we weren’t given an agenda prior. Hopefully, someone kept accurate minutes, also required by law.

There are already news deserts across the country. But, ask anyone who works at a newspaper what happens when their paper is delivered late or there is no coverage of the latest game or school board meeting. The phone rings non-stop.

Of course national and world news are important, as are the social media sites set up for specific like-minded groups. But, community newspapers gather all the news in general that’s relevant to one or more geographic areas. Our communities are more rural, in general, than the newspaper in the nearest city which doesn’t often cover our local news. Despite the difficulties we are facing as a small business because of the pandemic, we deliver the most up-to-date, accurate local news, school news, religion, obituaries, senior center menus, public meeting notices, sports, business updates, agriculture, police and courts, politics and much more. Our advertisers inform our readers of what’s for sale here and support our work while they do. We represent our entire community and we are doing our best to do our jobs.

Considering the value newspapers provide, our willingness to do our jobs, and the need for openness and transparency, school boards, and others, have an obligation to allow events and games to be recorded for posterity and should welcome us. Because if the Outlook can’t be there to record it, eventually no one will and there won’t be a phone number to call us to complain.

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