Founder’s principles still relevant today

Freedom Newspapers

It is perhaps a bittersweet moment to be remembering the founder of the company that owns this newspaper at a time when the newspaper business in general and this company in particular are going through difficult times — times not only related to the recession, but to particular changes in technology that have made it more difficult to sustain what we sometimes call the dead-tree-edition of daily journalism.

The Internet is a marvelous source of information and knowledge if we use it wisely, with the awareness that information in cyberspace is not necessarily sacrosanct or even accurate, that we must check it against other sources and our own knowledge, just as responsible thinkers must check information in print.

But it has certainly upset the business model that was so successful for so many years for newspapers.

If newspapers themselves are having trouble finding a new self-sustaining economic model, it doesn’t mean that journalism — ferreting out facts, checking them for accuracy, setting priorities, and trying to put the news of the day into some kind of coherent context — has become extinct or is likely to do so.

As the forms by which journalism is delivered change, however, some of the principles that R.C. Hoiles, the founder of Freedom Newspapers, which has become Freedom Communications and may change yet again in the future, remain relevant to the work we do here.

Today is the company’s Founder’s Day; Nov. 24 marks Hoiles’ birth, in 1878.

The improbable Hoiles, as he was called before he died in 1970, laid down markers we hope we still adhere to. Among his beliefs about newspapers that still apply in the era of the Internet are these:

• “What this country needs as much as anything else are newspapers that believe in moral principles and have enough courage to express these principles and point out practices and beliefs that violate moral principles. A newspaper that only tries to run editorials and columnists and news items that are popular is of mighty little value to its readers.”

• “A newspaper that is afraid of losing subscribers because of principles is of little value to itself or anyone else. It might make dollars but its publisher loses his own self-respect — his own soul.”

• “There were more crusading newspapers in years gone by than there are today. Today too many newspapers are afraid of offending somebody and losing a dollar by taking an unpopular position. The result is that they cease to develop, cease to be of much use in their community as far as getting people to better understand human relations that will promote goodwill, peace and prosperity.”

Those are high standards, and we hope we continue to strive to meet them in whatever form we deliver journalism and opinions.

When we fall short, as we sometimes will, we hope you will continue to challenge us, to ask us to explain our reasoning and the way we arrive at our views.

R.C. Hoiles consciously strove to understand eternal principles regarding human liberty and human dignity and apply them to journalism. He was not afraid to criticize, to accept criticism, or to engage in “close reasoning” with friend and foe alike.

However our business changes in the future, we will try to live by that example.