NEW YORK – Newspapers remain a foundational platform for one of five key freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: Freedom of the Press.
Well into the 21st Century, they are now largely available electronically, but today’s constantly upgrading digital formats have not diminished the fundamental role newspapers continue to play in everyday American life and society:
Transparency, i.e., providing information to a public that might otherwise be completely unaware of its government’s efforts and practices; history; current, community and cultural events; arts and literature; scientific and medical advancements; recognition of individuals, their accomplishments and personal contributions to both their own communities and to the wider community around them; business and finance; international news; expert opinions and analyses. The list goes on.
Newspapers are also essentially history on the fly. They chronicle events as those events occur hour by hour and day to day.
As such, they present and reflect history in the making. Anyone following a particular issue or issues of particular interest can rely on newspapers to present necessary information and, over time, help people develop a holistic sense of those issues and stories. Historians today cannot fully or objectively or rightly explain contemporary history to modern audiences without consulting newspaper sources.
In that sense, The National Herald has played a critical role in the life of the Greek American community.
The English-language weekly sister of the Greek-language daily, Εθνικός Κήρυξ (which was founded in 1915), The National Herald was launched 25 years ago to meet the needs of a Greek-American readership that has generally lost command of its ability to communicate in the language of its parents and grandparents.
Certain cultural traditions can be maintained over time, but ultimately, language is the supreme bearer of any cultural tradition, so if a group of people lose their grip on their ancestral language, they also lose proper perspective of their own cultural heritage.
For people of Greek heritage the obvious remedy, then, is to learn or brush-up on their Greek. The demands of everyday American life render that remedy not so easy to apply, however, so what are the possible alternatives?
Going to Greek school – and here, the Herald deserves to be commended for its consistent calls over the years to maintain and enhance Greek education in America – is an option for Greek-Americans primarily in larger cities like New York and Chicago, which have a large enough, and ‘Greek enough,’ Greek-American presence.
Local churches offer Greek school programs, too, but those are typically administered at the local level in accordance with individual parish needs and capacities. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America can still play a defining role on a nationwide basis in that regard.
But for most Greek Americans – even those who reside in larger urban settings – preserving our cultural traditions and outlooks begins at home. And this is where The National Herald comes in:
For those who continue reading the Herald’s sister Greek-language daily, it’s an opportunity to keep their fingers on the pulse of Hellenic issues in the primary language of those issues: i.e., Greek. For those who don’t speak, read, and write Greek so well (or even at all), the English-language weekly born 25 years ago is the go-to answer for Hellenes and Phil-Hellenes in an English-speaking context.
Because the publisher and a number of people on his staff, including his sister, are originally from Greece, where Εθνικός Κήρυξ also has an office in Athens, they are very much in-tune with Greece and Greek issues. Because they have an office in New York – the Greek-American community’s main cultural center – and because they themselves have raised families in this country, they have a natural interest in the Greek-American community and its affairs.
The Herald also has American-born Greeks on its staff, to include the publisher’s own children. I myself, a son of Greek immigrants, once served as managing editor of this newspaper. All of this is living proof that a newspaper originally founded to serve the Greek-American readership continues to serve that same readership in a way that helps all of us ‘keep things Greek’.
And this is no small achievement.
There have been several Greek-American publications over the decades – some quite good; others less so – but Εθνικός Κήρυξ and The National Herald have been doing it for almost 110 years. And when you produce a newspaper every day in Greek and another every week in English tailored specifically to meet the needs and interests of Greek-Americans for more than a century, that in and of itself is ongoing testament to the Herald’s overall reliability as an essential publication for people of Greek heritage both in this country and abroad.
So leaving aside the obvious – that The National Herald is a vital source of information for Hellenic issues; that it covers the Church and leading Greek-American organizations like AHEPA and AHI; that it publishes stories about influential Greek-Americans in virtually every endeavor; that it keeps us informed about the economic and geo-political security issues of Greece, to name but a few – The National Herald is more than just a newspaper doing its journalistic job.
The National Herald is a Greek-American institution that provides a vital lens thru which our community continues to learn about itself – its events, issues, and cultural heritage – thereby offering a crucial medium that helps bind us together as a community across this great country thru shared information. And there is tremendous power in that, power which can be harnessed for even greater purposes ahead.
Kudos to the publisher and his family, to all my former colleagues, and to all those associated with this great newspaper before and since my editorship. You all deserve the Greek American community’s thanks and continued support. Keep up the good work, και εις ανώτερα.
Mr. Lambrou, an award-winning journalist, served as managing editor of The National Herald from 2004 to 2009.