Since Mark is out of town this week, and his talent for crafting an editorial is a tough act to follow, I will point out that last month he won a first place award from the Colorado Press Association (CPA) for his editorials. He wouldn’t have mentioned that, and I think he has won enough awards in the past that he stopped counting. But it’s a good week to acknowledge that we are fortunate to have the kind of newspaper we do, and it’s a reflection of the kind of community we live in.
This first week of October is National Newspaper Week. I suppose that means a lot of things to a lot of people, but to me it means giving a nod to the people who work mostly behind the scenes to get our newspaper to print every week, despite holidays and government holidays and school breaks and a trying economy for newspapers in general. The CB News is read online (and without paywalls!) and in print all over town and all over the country. From our publishers, editor, copyeditor, columnists, reporters and photographers, to our ad sales reps, graphic designers, to the printing press staff in Salida to the driver who picks up those bundles from the press in the pre-dawn dark every Thursday, to our hard core and faithful co-workers who deliver those papers around the valley in the wee hours—it’s a bigger team than anyone who walks into our newsroom might see at first glance. And save for the press in another town, it’s all coming from people who live in this community.
And that’s only half the story. What makes it easier to tell stories, write profiles and help businesses advertise their services and products is that we have such a vibrant, engaged community around us. Yes, there are a lot of nonprofits. And they do some powerful work, which is worth writing about. There are a lot of community events, which are interesting and fun to follow (and hard to keep up with). We have an active community, whose town council members and government staff and various directors of all the nonprofits are also in the school drop-off line or on a dog walk in our neighborhoods.
People around here generally don’t stop when they park their bike or hang up their backpacks after a day of work or recreation. They volunteer, have hobbies, attend events and advocate for things that matter to them. They stay connected to their purpose and to this place. Sometimes, our community has so much going on that it feels like we could use a little… off-season. And that season is slowly trickling in, as the golden aspen leaves flutter off their branches in little flocks. Soon they will be carpeting our forests, and we will all keep getting outside but with a few more layers and a lot fewer people on the trails and streets. Next week is the Community School’s fall break, and maybe some readers will take their CB News with them camping or beaching or just to the top of Baxter’s to take a picture and help us celebrate being in print, even as so many other papers have had to cease.
Anyway, once the words and photos have been printed and posted online, it’s only the beginning of a much bigger process. Our coverage of local politics, public lands, education, sports, local personalities and businesses circulates to subscribers and to those who pick up a copy around town. Hopefully it starts (or restarts) some conversations. And hopefully people feel better for it, whether seeing familiar faces on the front page, noticing another amazing event happening or learning something new.
Having attended the CPA conference last month and getting to talk to people from other news outlets in our neighboring mountain towns, from rural areas of the state and from the cities, we talked a lot about the importance of local news. Apparently, it’s what people care about the most. It’s what most directly affects our lives.
The Knight Foundation did a recent poll that showed 71% of readers consider their local newspapers trustworthy compared with just 21% who consider national news sources to be trustworthy. That’s a little scary for national news, but to be fair, it reflects partisanship too. In a small town, we are not going to let partisanship get in the way of knowing each other and working together. In a small town, we are all accountable to each other. We see each other in the grocery stores, so we have to be prepared to have hard conversations. We’ve heard from the community when we misspelled a name, got a number wrong or if they disagreed with our take on things. Something else that came up at the CPA convention was the idea that as journalists, we can’t truly be unbiased. We live in this world and study it carefully and form opinions.
But we can be fair. And we should be open minded. So when we hear feedback from our readers outside the post office, standing in line at Camp 4, at sporting events and farmer’s markets and kids activities, we are accountable to our readers too, which is a vital part of the system and how we remain trustworthy. An unsettling feeling is if there is no feedback—meaning that nothing excited someone, inspired them or taught them something useful. So keep the conversations going.
The National Newspaper Week theme this year is “in print.” And as a printing operation in Pueblo just stopped production, I am thankful we have a community that values and supports their local newspapers, that we have healthy competition and feedback to hold us accountable to each other and that we have the kind of community around us that is worth writing about. Thanks for reading.