It’s unlikely that The Anna Maria Island Sun, a family-owned newspaper like the 1971 Washington Post, will ever face an issue as important as several presidents lying about whether the U.S. could win the war in Vietnam for three decades.
But however small the scale, newspapers share the same mission, and The Post is a reminder of it.
In The Post, publisher Katharine Graham faces the threat of the same criminal charges that The New York Times faces if she follows the Times’ expose of the Pentagon Papers.
She knows she could blow the deal with investors as her company goes public on the American Stock Exchange while the crisis escalates.
She fears losing high-level friends in government who could be ruined by the story.
But she decides to publish anyway, placing freedom of the press and the people’s right to know about the deception of government officials above legal, business and personal concerns.
While not on the level of The Times and The Post, The Sun has our competition, and the issues are the same.
We all want to be first, be fair, be right and be readable.
We all want to uncover the story that nobody else knows about.
And while breaking stories with nationwide impact is not our ballgame, we have a fair batting average in the minors.
Is it harder for a small paper to make this kind of tough editorial decision? Maybe. Pockets to pay lawyers are not as deep, and losing friends on a small Island whose residents are already leaving like lemmings makes for smaller dinner parties.
But putting a large staff and a large stock sale on the line arguably took Graham even more nerve.
It’s amazing to think that weapons of typewriters and pay phones wielded such a victory for Graham, The Post, and a free press, a lesson that technology is not nearly as indispensable as courage.
It’s a lesson to remember when stories get sticky and friends appear on the front page.
“Let’s go,” she said. “Let’s publish.”