Joe P. Asher|Daily Enterprise

Harlan Daily Enterprise Publisher Rita Haldeman addressed the Harlan County Chamber of Commerce concerning the role of the newspapers in the community during a meeting on Wednesday.

Enterprise publisher addresses chamber

The Harlan County Chamber of Commerce heard from Harlan Daily Enterprise Publisher Rita Haldeman during a meeting on Wednesday.

Chamber President Geoff Marietta introduced Haldeman to the group shortly after calling the meeting to order.

After giving a short history of the Harlan Daily Enterprise, Haldeman mentioned the Enterprise is under the Boone Newspapers umbrella.

“From what I’ve heard, the last owners were not very civic-minded,” she said. “I can tell you Boone Newspapers, who owns us now, is. We don’t report to stockholders, we don’t have shareholders. It’s really a family-owned business.”

Haldeman mentioned Boone Newspapers gives local papers a lot of freedom when it comes to the stories they publish, unlike some other news organizations.

“I worked for a newspaper in Texas during the last election,” Haldeman said. “The company put (out) a mandate that we endorse Hillary Clinton.”

Haldeman pointed out newspapers have an obligation to tell every side of a story so the people can make an informed decision. She added Boone Newspapers does not require their newspapers to endorse candidates.

“We’re very civic-minded,” she said. “The expectation is that the publishers are involved in our communities.”

Haldeman explained she performs a lot of different duties for the three newspapers she is in charge of — including the Harlan Daily Enterprise, the Middlesboro Daily News and the Claiborne Progress.

She also spoke about the current state of the newspaper industry.

“A lot of people say that newspapers are dying. I’ve heard that 1,000 times, and I’m sure you have too,” Haldeman said. “The metro areas are struggling. We are struggling, but not as bad as the big papers. In small town communities where we don’t have real strong local television, we’re still the provider of local news and information.”

She also mentioned the first obligation of a newspaper is to keep the public informed.

“Our primary responsibility has always been to keep government transparent,” Haldeman said. “Small communities – based on my experience – when they have closed down newspapers it’s just an easy in for graft.”

She also touched on the subject of “fake news.”

“Maybe there is fake news out there,” Haldeman said. “But I know that the local newspapers where I’ve worked, we work really hard to provide truth in our reporting.”

She pointed out when Facebook needed to get the message out recently regarding an issue, they took out full page newspaper ads across the country.

“If we have no value, then why did somebody as big as Facebook use newspapers to get the message out?” Haldeman noted.

She mentioned the industry is changing, with fewer reporters available. However, community members are always welcome to submit items for consideration.

“I appreciate you having me here,” Haldeman said. “I’m glad to be here in Harlan County, Bell County and Claiborne County (Tennessee). I’m looking forward to the time I’m going to spend here with you all.”