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Perspective: A little ink is a good thing

Editor’s note: This column was written by a journalism student at the University of Missouri, in connection with Newspapers in Education Week, observed through Sunday.

The ink on your local, daily newspaper is different than any kind of ink you might find in a textbook. The ink in your newspaper is fresh — it is only a day or two old, coming from a printing press inside or nearby your local town.

It tells stories of your community that a textbook could never tell. In a way, a newspaper is a continuing textbook — a living history, if you will — of your community. It documents the important characters, the talking points, the social issues, and every once in a while, it provides a public forum for opinion.

Textbooks teach; newspapers also teach. Newspapers — updated, read and maintained on a daily basis — teach in the present moment.

In today’s world, social media does that too. Twitter can also teach in the present moment. Social media allows everyone to be a journalist.

Newspapers provide context, which social media often doesn’t allow for. Usually, 140 characters — the maximum number of letters, numbers and spaces allowed in one tweet — can’t tell the whole story. Twitter has proven that 140 characters is enough to report an event, but isn’t enough to tell why that event is really important, what the event’s impacts are, or why you should care about it.

You can learn from your television as well, so long as you are tuned into the right station. Your daily newscast can be informative, detailed, and can provide context. It can tell you what events were important and why.

But television news no longer provides a forum for public opinion. The only time the public opinion is ever broadcast is if it makes news — during a protest or rebellion, perhaps — or if a reporter asks for it.

In a newspaper, public opinion is shared freely. Editorialists and columnists provide citizens an opportunity to express their values and beliefs. Letters to the editor are often published in the first section of the newspaper. In a newspaper, thoughts are shared, feedback is valued, and a reporter doesn’t have to ask you about your opinion for it to be published.

This is why the ink in a newspaper is different. It tells our story — the story of the news that happens around us, the news that we find important and tells us why it is important. It does this in a way that allows for us to share our thoughts and opinions with the rest of our community.

Just don’t let the ink stain your hands.

Daniel Jones is a student at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He is originally from Kansas City, Mo. He is an avid sports fan and newspaper reader. His work has been published in the Columbia Missourian, on KOMU-TV in Columbia and on NPR.

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