“What The People Don’t Know Will Hurt Them”

4 min readAug 25, 2020

As a child, probably around 6 or 7, I remember going with my mother to the offices of what was then the Johnson City Press-Chronicle, and now the Johnson City Press. I don’t remember why we needed to visit the offices, but I suspect it was so Mama could pay the yearly invoice for the newspaper. My parents always subscribed on a yearly basis, a practice they likely learned from their parents, and a practice which I carry on today.

I don’t remember exactly where I saw the motto of the paper, “What the people don’t know will hurt them” that day. I was just learning to read, but still had difficulty with some “big” words, such as “people”. What I very clearly remember, however, is trying to read the sentence, sounding out “people” and then asking Mama what the sentence meant.

I’ve remembered Mama’s wise words for nearly six decades. “Let’s take an example. Let’s pretend someone in Nashville, our state capital, or in Washington, D.C., our national capital, makes a law. Let’s pretend the law says you have to go to school every Saturday. If I didn’t know about the law, I might accidentally break it, and not take you to school. Daddy and I would get in trouble. so we would be hurt. And you would be hurt, too, because we wouldn’t be around to take care of you.” A simple example, but certainly easy enough for a child to understand.

Clearly, the motto of the Johnson City Press has stood the test of time, because it remains the motto today, these decades later. The issues we face today are much more complex and challenging now than then, but still, “What the people don’t know will hurt them” remains as accurate now, as then. Perhaps even more so.

I recently read with interest an editorial in the Johnson City Press. Thank you to Sam Watson, the Content Director of the Johnson City Press and to Rick Thomason, Publisher of the Johnson City Press and President of Six Rivers Media, for allowing me to copy their editorial below, in italics.

For more than 100 years, the Johnson City Press and its predecessor publications have been keeping you informed about what’s happening in your community, keeping you aware of where the best prices may be found, keeping you entertained with comics and features, and keeping you protected from government that would put your interests on a back burner.

Government answers to the people, but the people must know what government is up to and we believe our greatest calling is to keep you up to date on the performance of those you elect to manage your public affairs.

The pandemic has put our ability, and that of every newspaper throughout the country, at risk to continue to work for you. With business closures, businesses scaling back, and a general uncertainty in the business community, advertising support is down significantly, thus making financial stability in the newspaper industry perilous.

We at the Press are up for the fight and have managed to maintain staffing levels. Most newspapers can’t say that. But while we are proud of our ability to maintain to date, continued economic pressures mount.

Many newspapers have been forced out of business, leaving their communities with a void in their ability to remain informed by journalists dedicated to bringing you information about issues that affect your lives and well-being. Newspapers remain the nation’s most comprehensive, fact-based source of information, but without reporters keeping tabs on city halls, state agencies and community organizations, accountability suffers.

Congress has responded to the pandemic with emergency relief measures including putting money in your pocket. It now has opportunity to help the newspaper industry through this difficult time. The Local Journalism Sustainability Act introduced July 16 is a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Arizona, and Dan Newhouse, R-Washington state. It would provide tax credits for subscribing to and advertising in a local newspaper and payroll credit for journalists. So not only is it designed to help newspapers get over this economic speed bump, it also gives local businesses a leg up with their advertising and marketing budgets.

The main points of the proposed legislation are:

Credit for advertising in local newspapers and local media. Businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees would be eligible for a five-year non-refundable tax credit to spend on advertising in local newspapers or local radio or television stations. The credit, up to $5,000 in the first year and $2,500 in each of the next four years, would cover 80 percent of advertising costs in the first year and 50 percent annually thereafter.

Credit for local newspaper subscriptions of up to $250 per year to help cover the costs of subscriptions to local newspapers, in print or digital form, that primarily produce content related to news and current events. The credit would cover 80 percent of subscription costs in the first year and 50 percent thereafter, helping readers while incentivizing support of local news organizations.

A payroll credit for journalists could be used by local newspapers on compensation of its journalists. This provision will go a long way toward ensuring that communities keep their local news coverage.

With this legislation you would be able to put some money back in your pocket by subscribing to your local newspaper. And the legislation would help local businesses get money back for their advertising. And you can help the Press fund the journalism you subscribe to by reaching out to your federal representatives in support of this legislation. Please help us to continue to serve you.

I’ve written my Congressman, as well as my Senators. I not only invite, but implore you to do the same, asking them to support the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, H.R. 7640.

#Whatthepeopledontknowwillhurtthem #JohnsonCityPressChronicle #JohnsonCityPress #SamWatson #RickThomason #SixRiversMedia #LocalJournalismSustainabilityAct #HR7640