by John Miller
Note to readers: Today marks the beginning of National Newspapers Week. We choose this time to remind readers of the important roles each of us plays in the future.
We often get phone calls from readers who want to know what's happening in regards to a certain government agency or elected body.
The reader has heard something from someone next door, on the street or at work and now they want to know the rest of the story.
Readers believe that a newspaper has the right to knock down doors and drag the information into the light. Sometimes, it seems like we almost have to go to those extremes to get the story.
Newspapers do have a legal right to public information, and can choose to publish any public record. We have the ability to dig through massive amounts of paperwork, and then share those findings, better than any other media.
But it's important for readers to realize that they, too, have the right to public information.
The Freedom of Information Act and open meetings laws aren't just for media types hunting down a story. They are a form of public control, allowing citizens to become better informed about their government.
As a citizen, you have the right to request and pay minimum costs for a copy of minutes from the last county commission meeting.
You have the right to get a copy of the latest plan to remodel your child's school and a copy of the estimated cost.
And you always have the right to attend city, county and state government meetings. The only stipulation is that those boards can occasionally go into executive session, but only for specific reasons that they must declare. At no time can governmental bodies vote to spend taxpayers' money in executive session.
As newspapers look to the future, we will continue to serve as a watchdog of governmental affairs. But, we would be remiss if we didn't stress the importance of community involvement.
Newspapers do a good job of reminding readers of the importance of voting, but being a responsible citizen means more than just going to the polls on Election Day.
Being a responsible citizen requires you to be involved, to ask questions and more importantly, to look for solutions to the tough questions our city, county and state governments face daily.
It means picking up the phone to let your elected official know how you really feel about that tax increase or the cut in the police department's budget.
Being a good citizen takes some work. A newspaper can bring the world around you to your doorstep, but you have to be willing to let it in, and more importantly, become involved in the issues that matter most to you.
It's your right to make a difference.
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A few reminders:
-- The first of five state-required Harrison County School Board Effectiveness meetings will be held following the regular school board meeting at 5 p.m. on Monday at South Harrison High School.
All county high schools will be discussed at Monday's meeting. Parents and interested parties are urged to attend.
-- The American Red Cross will be holding an emergency blood drive from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday at the Meadowbrook Mall. Blood supplies are low throughout our region. Eligible donors are urged to participate. If you are unable to attend Monday, please call 624-7689 for information regarding other blood donation centers planned for this month.
--The Harrison-Clarksburg Board of Health will meet Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Harrison County Courthouse in Judge Bedell's 3rd floor jury room.
The State Health Commissioner's request for an engineering report regarding the health department's compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act will be discussed.
John G. Miller is managing editor of the Clarksburg Exponent and Telegram newspapers. He can be reached at 304-626-1473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.