Local Commentary

Editorial: The Bell, the Smell Of Ink on Newsprint

It is instructive of the entertainment industry’s core values that the new film, “The Post,” may be destined for the same accolades as “Spotlight,” the Academy Award-winning film from two years ago about the Boston Globe’s investigation into the New England Catholic Church’s coverup of sexual abuse accusations against scores of priests. The critical role of the media’s capacity to dig for the truth is an indispensable cornerstone of our democracy, and compared to “Spotlight,” this year’s potential best picture is even more poignant given the disposition of the current occupants of the White House to discredit the media as “fake news.”

Trump tries to turn his constituency against what is in fact its greatest defender, the free press. It is heartening to see the effort of Hollywood to make that point in such important docu-dramas as “The Post,” but it is even more important for the American public to come to the same conclusion on its own, and to distinguish between real “fake news,” the likes of Fox News and Breitbart, and credible institutions employing talented truth-seekers who see their work as a public service and a public good.

In “The Post,” the most compelling moment for us was when a button on the big printing press is pushed, a bell rings, and the press itself starts to move and print the newspaper through it. That was a tearjerker moment for us, if you can believe it. So would it be for anyone who truly has “printer’s ink in their veins.”

It parallels what our founder-editor wrote about the publication of the very first edition of this newspaper way back in 1991, in the historical essay he prepared for a reprint of the paper’s front pages for its first five years on the occasion of the paper’s 25th anniversary in March 2016.

He recounted how, getting the first-ever edition to the contract printer after days of getting it ready, “At our Maryland-based printer, when the press bell rang and everything started to move, it was a very special moment. As the papers started chugging onto a conveyor belt, I couldn’t help but stand on a box and loudly exclaim, ‘Let every tyrant tremble! A free press is the voice of the people in defense of liberty and freedom everywhere!’ The noise of the press drowned me out so that only a couple of pressmen looked at me funny.”

But that bell, and that press-chugging sound, and the smell of the ink on newsprint was, and is, truly inspirational and stands for so much.
The maiden edition of the mighty Falls Church News-Press was not breaking the story that would end a war and bring down a president, but it has played a similar role for its core community over time.

We would like to see our role as a model for a revival of print newspapers in local communities. We always will be a vital component of our democracy.