Photo: Denise Civiletti

Thank you, everyone for the accolades on the “Woman of Distinction” award. It’s sort of embarrassing and awkward, and when I expressed that to someone yesterday, he advised me to think of it as a eulogy only I get to enjoy it. Dark, but true, I guess.

Honestly, it is nice to be recognized and appreciated. And it’s especially nice, especially now, to have local journalism recognized in this way — as the valuable community service that it is. Our work is typically taken for granted at best, and, at worst, attacked as biased or (in recent years) “fake news.” We are, more often than most people realize, scolded, yelled at, insulted and even threatened. When the most powerful person in the world repeatedly disparages reporters as “the enemy of the people” and “scum,” what else might we expect? This has permeated the environment we live and work in, even on the most local level of community journalism.

We all work very hard at this job — whether or not it’s appreciated or recognized, because we’re not doing this work for recognition or appreciation (and Lord knows we’re not doing it for the money.) We’re doing it because we believe in our mission and its value to the communities we serve. Every single one of us.

Many local news organizations around the world are teetering on the edge of extinction. When local communities lose local news, participation in the democratic process declines, taxes increase and corruption is more common, because nobody is watching and accountability evaporates.

Facebook and Google aren’t doing this work — your Facebook “news” feed isn’t news. In fact, while these platforms rely on the work product of news organizations for content and traffic, they have simultaneously crippled news organizations by siphoning off “audience” and the advertising revenue that pays the reporters who do the work in the first place.

So, yes, it’s very nice to be recognized for the work we do, especially at this critical juncture for local news. If your community is important to you, it’s time to recognize the value of the people who work to ensure transparency in its governance, who work to help your community celebrate its successes, cope with its failures or mourn its losses. Recognize that value with your support as a reader. Become a member or subscriber of the news organization that covers your community. If you own a local business or manage a marketing budget, spend at least some of your advertising budget with the independent locally owned news providers serving your town.

There’s a profound and simple truth: Freedom isn’t free. Neither is news. And make no mistake — the two are indeed connected.

We need your help.
Now more than ever, the survival of quality local journalism depends on your support. Our community faces unprecedented economic disruption, and the future of many small businesses are under threat, including our own. It takes time and resources to provide this service. We are a small family-owned operation, and we will do everything in our power to keep it going. But today more than ever before, we will depend on your support to continue. Support RiverheadLOCAL today. You rely on us to stay informed and we depend on you to make our work possible.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.