EDITORIAL: The power of the press, the power of the people

May 8, 2020
By Marcy Shortuse

BY MARCY SHORTUSE – If you were to go back in a time machine to February 1 and be able to talk to the person you were back then, imagine the conversation you would have. Things we never thought were possible in our age of modern technology and medicine have been taking place. This virus has researchers scrambling for answers, has put people out of work, has kept people in their homes, and for some has turned social media into a battleground. While epidemiologists admit to confusion, construction workers swear they have the answers. It’s a weird, weird time. It feels at times like we have fallen down the rabbit hole.

There are three professions that aren’t the best to have right now: Politicians who have to make decisions to keep people safe, yet not infringe on their rights too much; researchers who have to find the answers, and fast; and folks in the media. Everyone in America is blaming one profession or another right now … and sometimes it’s all of them.

Many of the people I talk to love to bash the media for overhyping this virus. When I gently remind them that they are talking about me, the answer is quite often, “Oh, no. I mean the mass media, the big corporations. Not you.”

But it’s the little guys like us who will be the first to fall. While CNN and FOX are still going to continue to report, small-town newspapers everywhere are struggling to keep a foothold. We rely on advertising to keep afloat, and when your revenue has been cut in half (or more), the quiet desperation can be palpable. While many businesses have opened up this week, there are still people staying at home and not spending money at those businesses. Those businesses have bills that are backed up. One of the last things they can spend money on right now is advertising. That means that little newspapers like ours may not be seeing any improvement in income any time soon.

This is not an announcement that we’re going to fold, not by any means. This editorial is, in fact, to let you know we are still here and will still be reporting the news as objectively as possible. We know you can get a majority of your virus news from other sources, so we haven’t spent a lot of time rehashing the state and local numbers. We will, though, report to you about what it is like on the island for people who are struggling because of this strange virus. We will also tell you about all the good things that have come from adversity, and people who are making a difference in others’ lives, when it is needed the most. Those are the people who make this small island community a family.

We have continued to diligently put our lead stories on our web site and on Facebook for free. There is no paywall when you click on a Boca Beacon story on line. We hope that never has to change. But there is still a lot you are missing if you only read us online, such as our Ballyhoo (a complete listing of local events, birth and wedding announcements, and much more), fishing photos and stories, our “Ham-it-up” stories from people who travel around the world, horoscopes, and much more. You miss the secret message in the lighthouse on the front page, and, if the paper is very busy on a particular week, you might not get all the letters to the editor or even all the stories.

We work very hard to stay focused on reporting as much island news as we can, in memory of Marnie Banks and her original thought behind the creation of this newspaper in 1980. She wanted to document the history that is made in this small place, and to feature the friends and family here who do incredible things. She knew that what happens here is important, and the people who live and work here are important. We matter … we make a difference. Without a local source of news, we are overlooked as a tiny spit of land between Charlotte and Lee Counties that few would ever hear about.

We don’t want to cut our print days back to the every-other-week schedule that we had before Dusty Hopkins bought the publication. We don’t want to put up a paywall. We want to keep going as we are, serving the community in the best way we know how.

So how can you support us? We would love for you to subscribe. If you already subscribe to the print edition, you can also subscribe to the e-edition so you can access us from anywhere you are, at any time, on your cell phone. You can subscribe to our magazine, which comes out every other month. You can give subscriptions as gifts as well. You can share our stories on your social media pages, and expose others to what we have to offer. If you believe in us, please tell people about it. Every little bit will help us continue to do the job we are dedicated to performing.

We know that words carry power. That is why so many are angry at the mainstream media right now. But we also know that good, objective writing carries even more power. That is our commitment. We are here for you, and we have been since 1980. If you can be there for us, we would be eternally grateful. Thank you for reading.

Marcy Shortuse is the editor of the Boca Beacon. She can be reached at                                           mshortuse@bocabeacon.com.