Column: ‘Watchmen’ and newspapers

• Originally published in the Kane County Chronicle on March 4, 2009

I’m looking forward to “Watchmen,” which debuts this weekend in movie theaters across the country.

I loved the graphic novel when I read it over the summer and was excited to hear that the movie planned to stay true to the book.

“Watchmen” is about a group of masked heroes without superpowers. (Save for one who was disassembled in an experiment and gained phenomenal powers as a result; it’s essentially a comic-book movie – what do you expect?) It’s set in 1985, and nuclear war with the Soviet Union is imminent. While the masked heroes were popular in the 1950s and 1960s, their numbers have dwindled, many have been outlawed and they’re simply not wanted anymore. Yet they still feel the need to protect other people.

It’s a sad story in many ways. The people who want to watch over humanity have been thrown out by the very ones they wish to protect.

My original thought was to write something comparing the mission of newspapers to the mission of the Watchmen. Watching over its readership despite dwindling numbers. Righting wrongs when possible. Trying to prevent nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

But the comparison is much more basic than that.

It’s all about relationships.

Human life is about relationships. Those we form with each other. Those we form with our inner selves. Those we form with ideas.

In “Watchmen,” the masked heroes have a symbiotic relationship with those they protect. They were most successful when people were involved, joined in, formed masked heroes of their own.

Newspapers, likewise, have a similar symbiotic relationship with their readers. Our success is linked to readers involvement. The more readers contribute and get involved with the paper, the better we can do our job.

In my short time here, I’ve thought quite a bit about how to get people involved with the Chronicle.

Our Web stories can be commented on, which has been terrific source of reader feedback, though the function is little used when compared to the overall visits we receive to our site.

We have Sound Off, which is a favorite of mine and allows a level of anonymity to those who don’t wish to put their name on a letter to the editor, our masked heroes if you will.

And we certainly encourage readers to call or e-mail us with their thoughts.

But perhaps we need to reach out even more.

I’m sure many of you have questions about your community. What exactly will this referendum mean for my taxes? Where can I take my kids over the weekend that won’t bankrupt me by Monday? When is the best time to search for sales throughout the Tri-Cities?

Ask away. E-mail us. Call us. Send us a message in a bottle, though our office is a bit too far from the Fox River for that to be terribly effective. We can’t answer your questions unless they are asked.

No question is too silly. No question is too dumb.

That’s what we do. Find out things for you. We’re your very own community Google.

So ask us. It’s what we do. And we need you, your questions, your input and your feedback to succeed. Only together can we be the watchmen of our communities.

Joe Grace is the editor of the Chronicle. Write to him at jgrace@kcchronicle.com.

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