Newspapers have never been more important than they are today.

Watchdog journalism, accurate reporting, strong editorials, comprehensive public notices, a free, open public forum, defense of the First Amendment, championing open government, holding public officials accountable and celebrating communities are among the things that newspapers do best.

The Georgia-Florida SunLight Project follows in the tradition of in-depth newspaper reporting and accountability journalism.

In 1841, Thomas Carlyle quoted Edmond Burke's comments about the press.

“Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”

It is possible Burke was actually chiding the press for its sense of itself, but Carlyle used his words to write about the importance of newspapers to democracy.

Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Edward Carrington, wrote that if he had to choose between “a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Democracy is best served when newspapers provide checks and balances as the Fourth Estate of government. Newspapers are not the enemy of government — rather we are the champions of the public, committed to the neighborhoods, cities, counties, states and coverage areas we serve.

Newspapers hold government accountable because at our very core we believe that government belongs to the governed and not to the governing. If newspapers do not provide in-depth reporting, stand up for the public, protect the rights of free speech and the rights of access to government, then no one will.

Newspapers are the most powerful advocate the public can have.

Newspapers must use the power of the pen to make a difference in the communities we serve, by accurate reporting, comprehensive coverage and strong commentary.

Margaret Mead wrote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” A newspaper should always be just that — a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens” —committed to serving the public in real and meaningful ways. People need a source for trustworthy information to they can make a difference in their communities.

In a world of fake news and questionable websites, blogs and social media post, misinformation is just a click away.

The SunLight Project launched today by Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. newspapers in Georgia and Florida is designed to provide in-depth reports our readers can trust.

The SunLight Project is a team of top CNHI journalists in Georgia and Florida who will use state Sunshine Laws, data research, open records requests and investigative journalism skills to shine the light on big issues and opportunities facing the community.

Readers will find upcoming reports that will include comprehensive, in-depth looks at crime, economic development, education, government spending, bureaucratic red tape, quality of life issues, poverty, homelessness and a host of other topics that impact our communities.

Anyone wanting to contact the SunLight Project team of editors and reporters with news tips or information considered to be important to the community can email sunlightproject@gaflnews.com.

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