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I'm an assistant professor at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, where I teach and research how news sites can better reach their audiences. I received my Ph.D. from the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri where I was one of the founding editors of MyMissourian.com, a citizen journalism site for Columbia, Mo. Before graduate school, I worked as a community newspaper editor in Southern Utah and Southern California.

Freedom Fighters

Next to a photo of my wife and my children sits a wooden paperweight I received from my last newspaper job. It’s pretty hammered. I don’t even remember how I got it. I think it was left over from the editor before me. But I like it because its message is simple:  The core values of the Freedom Communications are integrity, community, self-responsibility, life-long learning, and respect for individual freedom. These are principles by which I try to live. When Freedom announced two weeks ago that it was declaring chapter 11 bankruptcy, I had to ask myself if my paperweight had suddenly become outdated.

In other words, it’s unfair for me to say that Freedom no longer stands by its core values. I still have a lot for friends that work for the company that do outstanding work. But I just have to ask myself if R.C. Hoiles would have allowed the company to get into such debt that it would have to sell control to its investors to stay afloat.

I also have to worry for my old newspaper, The Desert Dispatch. I don’t think it’s revealing too much to say that we struggled to make ends meet most years. I have to wonder what role the Dispatch will fulfill in the newly restructured Freedom. I hope it still exists because I think it is a powerful community-building force in Barstow.

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