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Published 12:00 am Monday, November 3, 2003

October is a month for many things. In fact, practically every week and month has a special designation. Natural Gas Week, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Week Š all are very important to each and every person in some fashion.

But there is also a week designated every October to celebrate the newspaper. That's right, the good old-fashioned newspaper.

This week is National Newspaper Week and at the Star-News we are proud to be celebrating this important event.

The theme for this year's celebration is "The Newspaper Š A Nation Talking To Itself."

And that brings up a very good question.

Why are newspapers so important in American society?

Here's an answer.

Newspapers are vital to American society because they are instant history books, forums for the free exchange of ideas, a watchdog of government, a defender of the Constitution and an educational resource.

There are many times when people don't agree with stories in a newspaper, editorials in a newspaper, or with the freedoms newspapers have.

But imagine if you will, what it would be like receiving only one side of a story Š all the time Š and that side of the story is always the government's side.

What if no one were questioning the government? What if no one reported on the bad - but focused only on the good? And then in reverse - what if they focused only on the bad and not the good? Where would we be?

It only takes a brief look at this nation's history to grasp the power of the press. Horace Greeley's editorial urged a restless young nation to "Go West, young man!" And we did. John Dean warned Richard Nixon that there was "a cancer - within, close to the Presidency," but it was the reporters Woodward and Bernstein who warned the American public just how malignant the corruption had grown.

Violations of civil rights,

women's rights - all rights - are not hidden, but exposed by the press, opening the doors for reform and the improvement of the human condition.

Public outcry corrects many wrongs in this country, but the public cannot cry out against injustices until they are made known - and that is our job.