When residents of a given city are asked to list the most important resources of their hometown, they are likely to mention quality schools, a solid economy, a vibrant cultural scene or myriad recreational opportunities.

But how many people stop to consider their city’s newspaper among the most valuable assets?

A strong community newspaper serves a variety of functions that are crucial to keeping its readers informed, educated and engaged — all of which is vital in a democratic society.

As we celebrate National Newspaper Week, Oct. 6-12, it’s an opportunity to examine the ways newspapers not only provide news and information, but also serve as strong community partners in supporting programs and projects that make a difference.

Certainly, at its core, a newspaper’s job is to provide the news you need. What will the weather be like today? What topics are the school board expected to discuss at tonight’s meeting? What was the score of last night’s game? What entertainment options are available this weekend?

A local newspaper is also valuable in making the public aware of road construction, boil water notices, school lockdowns and holiday closings.

But beyond offering useful, timely information, community newspapers are crucial in helping to increase voter turnout, improve financial transparency and accountability, and encourage participation by prospective candidates for office, as well as serve as a platform for the civil exchange of viewpoints through letters, polls and online feedback.

Strong community newspapers are dedicated to bringing their readers the stories that matter — providing dependable, fact-based reporting — and doing so every day.

This commitment to journalistic excellence and service to the community is something that the Killeen Daily Herald has maintained throughout its 130 years of continuous publication. It’s a level of pride and professionalism Herald readers have come to expect in their newspaper — and one they deserve.

Your community newspaper can offer products and services unmatched by other news sources.

Perhaps most importantly, newspapers serve as a watchdog over our elected officials, local bureaucracies and governmental bodies.

The Herald has repeatedly exercised this vital oversight function in areas ranging from municipal budgets to federal programs — and it continues to do so.

In 2016, the Herald’s reporting on Killeen’s budget troubles led to a demand for an outside audit into the city’s financial practices — a demand that was supported by residents and ultimately led to an investigation that revealed a pattern of chronic overspending and a host of procedural problems.

The Herald has also done extensive in-depth reporting on the region’s water resources — informing readers about water quality, detailing how it is treated and explaining how burgeoning growth in the Central Texas area threatens future water availability.

In addition, the Herald gave readers a detailed look at the $426 million Killeen ISD school bond issue — both before it went before the voters in May 2018, as well as documenting changes the district made to the package after its approval at the polls.

The Herald also took an in-depth look at the regional water board that controls the area’s drinking water — calling attention to the water district’s outdated boundaries, lack of elections over more than two decades and its attempts to move to appointed rather than elected board members. The subsequent outcry from residents led to a rewrite of the proposed legislation authorizing the changes.

On the national front, the Herald continues to investigate the health problems suffered by Army personnel as a result of exposure to open, toxic burn pits while the soldiers were stationed in southwest Asia. The newspaper has led the push for better government record-keeping and research into the issue.

The Herald also strives to help readers make informed decisions at the ballot box, through comprehensive voter guides, candidate forums and extensive, balanced coverage during each election campaign.

Accuracy and thoroughness are the hallmarks of local newspaper coverage, which goes far beyond the video snippets and sound bytes found on other media sources. Community newspapers such as the Herald and its sister paper, the Temple Daily Telegram, provide readers with in-depth, issue-oriented coverage that can’t be found elsewhere.

Through the shared resources of FME News Service, the two publications are able to provide expanded county and regional coverage — offering an even broader base of information to readers.

This year’s National Newspaper Week observance is focusing on the importance of the First Amendment — and indeed, there was a reason our Founding Fathers enshrined freedom of the press as a first priority.

A newspaper’s ability to access, gather and disseminate information to the public is the basis for a well-educated populace and a strong democracy.

Newspapers continue to embody First Amendment principles through their commitment to thoroughness, accuracy, accountability and transparency.

But newspapers also take seriously their responsibility to give voice to their readers — and the Herald is proud to do so through publication of letters to the editor, conducting reader feedback polls and call-outs, and through sponsorship of public forums.

It’s not just about what newspaper readers need to know; it’s also about what readers need to say — and a constructive dialog with readers will inevitably make a good newspaper even better.

The Herald and Telegram are not just community newspapers. They are your community newspapers — and with that role comes great responsibility.

We understand that we reflect our respective communities, and it’s our commitment to do so in a positive, constructive manner. We will continue to shine the light of transparency in areas where it’s needed. We will also continue to bring to light the issues and problems that affect our readers, and seek solutions where possible.

Of course, we will also continue to share the stories of individuals and organizations that are making a positive difference for others, and making our communities stronger through their efforts.

We hope that through responsive, thorough, fact-based reporting, we can help to make our communities a better place in which to live and work.

During National Newspaper Week, please feel free to contact us and tell us what we are doing well, where we could use some improvement and what we can do to better serve our readers.

In short, let us know how we can be a more valuable asset to our community.

dmiller@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7543

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