Look at the work of Pittsburgh Current, for instance, which has produced meaningful journalism that moved public policy while barely able to pay bills for a lack of advertising. The Current’s work on abuses at the Allegheny County Jail last fall highlighted the fact that guards removed nearly all reading materials from prisoners. Ultimately, it was their reporting and then the reporting of others, that forced the county administration to change its policy.

That’s the power of journalism in a free and open society: Journalists shine a light on what happens, and they allow we the people to make up our minds about what seems fair and right, to create policies that shape the places in which we live. This happens both at the national level and within our small towns and neighborhoods.

While we take renewed appreciation in our American freedoms after seeing them threatened so blatantly, we must also invest in the foundations of our democracy, and particularly the fourth estate. That means supporting local newspapers by paying for a subscription, making donations to nonprofit news outlets, acknowledging the source of original reporting when we copy it to share on social media.

This moment calls us to see that the media are not the enemies of the people – but rather, the media are the people, drawn from our own ranks to preserve the way of life we value so much.

The founding director of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University, Andrew Conte writes the On Media column at NEXTpittsburgh with support from The Heinz Endowments. You can find all of his columns here, and you may reach him at PittsburghPublicEditor@gmail.com