Freedom isn’t free

The other day word came out that Freedom Communications had sold the Odessa American and several other publications in South Texas to the newly formed media group AIM Media Texas.

To be honest, for people in the middle of it, it wasn’t especially surprising as we watched all the television stations go, or this newspaper go, or that group of newspapers get sold off. It was just something happening and soon enough would happen to us and the sooner the better, so we wouldn’t have to keep wondering about it. You hope it turns out good, but you haven’t got any control over it, so what to worry about?

One of the reporters brought up the point that the worst part for most of us on ground level is just not getting to make ironic jokes anymore.

“I work for Freedom.”

Or, “Freedom signs my paycheck.”

Or, “I’m a journalist — for Freedom.”

Now all we have left is “We’ve been sold by Freedom,” and “Freedom isn’t free.”

More seriously, this is the only company I’ve ever really worked for, and it was nice being employed by a company with a libertarian philosophy, at least before the bankruptcy.

About half the time we get called a liberal rag, and the other half we’re called a super right-wing mouthpiece, and if a libertarian editorial philosophy is the aim, that’s good to hear, isn’t it? You don’t endorse candidates, because both parties and partisans are inherently untrustworthy, you can only endorse issues.

R.C. Hoiles built the newspaper and eventually television media conglomerate in the 20th century before passing it on to his family upon his death in 1970. I heard someone say that he’d be rolling around in his grave to see what happened to his company, but I don’t think so. It’s the free market and a lot of money is being made, hopefully to mutual benefit of involved and affected parties — invisible hand and all that.

For journalists, and for the people at the Odessa American, we’re certainly looking forward to life under our new owners. We hope to be a better paper because of it, but we’re always trying to be a better paper.

In light of the ongoing shocks to the traditional media outlets, the question comes up of what future newspapers have in the world, and journalists, generally. The OA came into existence in 1940; where will it be in 2040?

I recently talked with an Odessa emigrant now in Florida about what makes true journalism, and while she had high aspirations for the transformative truth power of investigation and lie-slaying, I still think all journalism is, at its heart, witnessing something with eyes and ears and telling people about it. And doing it in a responsible way, with someone else’s brain on it to make sure that you talked to the right people and asked the right questions and wrote it all down fairly.

At its heart, this is the mission, isn’t it? Answer the questions people ask you about things, tell them things they should have questions about, and finally now hear and converse with the people you serve.

I don’t know what the future will look like in 2040, what platforms people will use to get information or by what technology, but I think and maybe hope a little bit that the Odessa American is still the name people trust to tell them about things they haven’t seen with their eyes or heard with their ears.

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