T

oday we’d like to give a little shout-out to our journalistic friends at the Waynesville-based Smoky Mountain News as they mark their 20th anniversary.

Technically, we’re competitors, often seeking the same advertising dollars and chasing the same stories, but we’re all members of the same journalism tribe, seeking to protect and better our communities.

Life for small, independent newspapers (of which we’re one) has always involved a lot of hard work  and dealing with ever-changing technological challenges and shifting economic tides. Few of us are left standing. We’ve been around since 1926, having survived historic events, such as the Great Depression and the advent of the internet. The Waynesville-based SMN operation was started by former Mountaineer Editor Scott McLeod in the teeth of the Great Recession, and we’re glad to see they’re still around.

Why?

Well, because news is important. The Founding Fathers built the concept of our Republic on an informed citizenry.

Much of that reporting has been vanishing in the 20 years of the Smoky Mountains News’ existence. Big-city dailies have been gobbled up by chains and in many cases stripped of their reporting assets (not to mention reporters). Small-town newspapers have also fallen prey to the consolidation move, and many haven’t survived – more than 1,700 weeklies have folded since 2004.

That’s bad news for a democracy, because newspapers do the vast bulk of the reporting in this country, particularly in small towns. It is newspaper reporters who attend local government meetings others can’t squeeze in the time for, who check on crime and health trends, and who hold politicians accountable.

We need all hands on deck.

So as the Herald rolls toward its 100th anniversary in 2026, we congratulate the new kid on the block for turning 20. And here’s to 20 more.