From my earliest memories, newspapers have been part of my daily life. Ever present on my family’s kitchen table growing up, those black-and-white pages provided a window to the community and the world around me, exposing me to new ideas and viewpoints, and offering a greater understanding of the world.
Today, as newspapers have evolved, and as more coverage has shifted from the pages delivered to our front doors each morning to online and video content, the critical role journalism plays in our nation remains, and is more important than ever. The free and independent press is, and has always been, an essential pillar of our democracy.
It is our watchdog - holding our leaders accountable, guarding against government overreach, and striving always for truth and accuracy.
Local papers like the Cape Gazette are also the heartbeats of our communities. They keep us connected, informed and aware.
Indeed, for the past 25 years, the Cape Gazette has done that and more for Sussex County. Led since its founding by Publisher Dennis Forney and Editor Trish Vernon, the paper has earned a well-deserved reputation as a reliable source of news, sports, and information for and about the region.
As Dennis wrote in the inaugural issue on May 28, 1993, the paper is designed “to celebrate the lives and times of the people who live and own property in what many people consider one of the most beautiful and unique areas along the eastern seaboard.”
For the past quarter-century, the team at the Cape Gazette has covered community festivals and town council meetings; they’ve kept a watchful eye on our coastline, our most precious natural resource, and reported on issues that impact our families, including education, infrastructure, and health care.
From the beaches of Rehoboth, Dewey and Bethany, to the agricultural communities of Georgetown, Harbeson and Millsboro, this paper and its team of dedicated journalists work hard to connect us, no matter where we live.
Things have changed a bit for Dennis, Trish and their team since the first edition of the Cape Gazette was published in 1993. For starters, the newsgathering operation is more robust, now boasting 11 full-time editors and reporters on staff. A second mid-week edition was added to the paper in 2004, and circulation now reaches 23,000.
But a constant remains: the paper’s commitment to the people it serves and to its role as a crucial pillar of our democracy. As the Cape Gazette’s slogan reads: “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” That idea is woven into the fabric of our nation. At the time of its founding, Thomas Jefferson said, “Our liberty depends on freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”
At a time when journalism is under attack, we should remember these words, and stand up for and celebrate journalism. We should stand up for journalism when the president is attempting to brand mainstream, credible news outlets as “fake news” and “the enemy of the people” when they disagree with him.
We should stand up for journalism when reporters are being targeted for violence as they were in Annapolis this summer, when a gunman opened fire on a newsroom and left five dead, and we should stand up for journalism when journalists continue to be jailed around the world for doing their jobs.
Today, more than ever, we must stand up for and celebrate journalism, and uphold the United States’ role as a defender of a free press, as our founders intended. So on the 25th anniversary of the Cape Gazette, I want to thank Trish and Dennis and their team for working hard to tell the stories that matter, and striving always to perform the paper’s crucial function to our democracy.
We support you and stand with you. I wish you 25 more years of success.