Editor’s Column: What makes news, news?

I sometimes forget normal people don’t always understand how this crazy process works.
When someone asks us for news coverage, my first question is usually, “is this newsworthy?” Newsworthy means true, interesting and relevant. Generally (particularly at this time of year when everyone is hibernating, on vacation or trying to recover from holiday overload), just about anything qualifies as newsworthy. If someone asks for news coverage and we can make that happen, we do, to the best of our ability.
There’s a quote about journalism floating around that rings true, although no one seems to be able to pinpoint the original source. “Journalism is printing what someone else doesn’t want printed; everything else is public relations.”
We like those public relations stories. They’re nice. But we found out this week that even those public relations stories can be something someone else doesn’t want printed. Doesn’t mean the story isn’t newsworthy.
When the press hesitates to cover a story out of fear of backlash, then we, as the free press, have been hamstrung, and that’s a slippery slope to the downfall of democracy.
That said, folks sometimes ask (or wonder and don’t ask, or just complain without asking) why we haven’t covered X, Y or Z. Most of the time if something isn’t in the paper it’s because no one let us know what was happening or because we couldn’t get anyone to return calls or emails. Some stories can’t be verified yet, aren’t public knowledge, or are still at the point of “he said, she said,” which isn’t news, it’s just gossip. You can get gossip anywhere. You can only get news where people are committed to telling the truth, even when it’s hard.
That’s why it’s disconcerting when books like “Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolff are portrayed as journalism. An article on Politifact.com today fact-checked the book and found a number of fairly obvious factual errors, with no sources cited for a number of statements made.
That’s not journalism. In the words of our Rangely correspondent Jen Hill, “Mistakes happen. Real news owns up to it.”
I guess that makes us real news, despite a few comments we’ve heard. We make mistakes, we own up to them, and we do our best to rectify our errors as quickly as possible. It’s a good policy, not just for a newspaper, but for daily living.

This week’s paper has information about all the county commissioner appointed boards that have vacant seats to be filled, as well as information about the town trustee and mayoral positions that will be elected in April.
Consider finding one that fits your interests and filling out an application this month. Other than the Council on Aging, whose members need to be 60 or older, age isn’t an issue as long as you’re 18 or up. What’s needed on many of these boards is not a lot of knowledge, money or experience, it’s a willingness to learn and a heart to serve your community.