From My Window… Herald Times: A look back at past year, looking forward

Sean McMahon, Editor
Sean McMahon, Editor
This is a good time of year to look back at the 10 months I have been here as editor of the Herald Times — the good and bad of it all — and to look forward to what is upcoming in 2014 to hopefully bring improvements to the publication and to make it easier for residents of Rio Blanco County to get information into the paper.
There has been good news in the paper as well as bad, but that is what makes up a community — certainly one as diverse as Rio Blanco County.
There have been boo-boos and blunders as well, and I take full blame for those with only the excuse that I have met so many people in Meeker and Rangely in the last 10 months and names do sometimes get messed up with folks I have known in other places. Two names I feel especially bad about messing up — more than they will ever know — are Lion of the Year Mark Rogers and (repeatedly, I understand) the name of county Road and Bridge Director Dave Morlan. There have been others as well, and I apologize for those equally.
I admit there are two errors I absolutely hate making and that is to mess up someone’s name and to screw up someone’s obituary.
I know to err is human, but it disappoints me as much as the person or the family when that happens, and, Steve, you don’t have to be embarrassed for me. I feel bad enough even though there are a lot of long-time locals who did not know about the pheasant farm up County Road 8.
It does take time to learn a community: the sacred cows, the movers and shakers, places not to go, the prima donnas and the good ol’ folks, etc.
In my nearly 40 years of journalism, I have learned that a reporter or editor needs to be in a community for at least a year before they stop making really stupid mistakes. I would have hoped that would not be the case here, but there have been exceptions. Those I can only learn from and work to not make those mistakes again.
Here’s hoping for a better 2014.

Residents and groups around the county have been sending press releases and photos, club meeting briefs, etc. via email to the newspaper at editor@theheraldtimes.com for quite some time. We have also had off and on computer problems that have been embarrassing to us and a hassle for those who have sent the releases to the paper without having them make it to print.
I have started asking folks to send the photos, press releases, briefs and notices of upcoming events to both of the addresses I check regularly. If possible, I would request that emails be sent to editor@theheraldtimes.com and sean@theheraldtimes.com just to cut the chances of a problem in half.
I would also make it very clear that we are interested in your group or club news, your major family news and accomplishments (graduations, deaths, marriages, etc.) and someone calling or emailing us school news. After all, we can’t cover something at the school if someone doesn’t let us know about it. The more advance notice given to us, the better. It also isn’t a bad idea if you don’t see me at an event to call me after and send a photo or two you might have taken.
This becomes particularly important during the school year and during the summer, when there are often many things going on at the same time, such as during Range Call or the Rio Blanco County Fair in Meeker or during Septemberfest in Rangely.
We at the Herald Times want to cover as many events as possible and will try to do a better job.
There are always problems with scheduling conflicts, and I am working on a resolution to one problem in particular, which is better coverage of the Meeker Town Council and the Meeker School Board meetings as both groups meet the same days at the same times.
I am also looking for a person with previous newspaper experience to cover the Rangely Town Board, the Rangely School District and the Rio Blanco County Commissioners when they meet in Rangely.
An email or a phone call to me at 878-4017 in Meeker or 675-5033 in Rangely is an easy way to get ahold of me and ask any question or to let me know what is coming up. I won’t always be able to cover everything, but an attempt will be made. Be assured, it isn’t a personal thing, and, if it doesn’t work out the first time, don’t give up on us.

One thing we can all agree on is that Rio Blanco is a beautiful place with some awesome scenery, abundant and varied wildlife and some spots of true wild nature.
There are flowers in bloom, elk having a standoff with the family vehicle, unmatched storm photos this past several months and just a number of things at the county fair, Septemberfest, the Fall Festival, school plays and presentations, Range Call, the county fair, the Meeker Sheepdog Classic, etc., that lend themselves to great photos.
I would be glad to run good photos sent in by area residents and readers if those photos show a bit of why we live here. From kids playing on the swings in a park to a heavy snow wreaking havoc on our towns and outbuildings, these are photos that are best shared — to the enjoyment of those here now and in the future.
We need those photos in high resolution (preferably at least 1 megabyte) and with words from you as to what the photo is all about as well as the full name of the photographer and a phone number I can call if I have any questions.
The ideal newspaper belongs to the entire county and its purpose is to serve the entire county, not just a certain sector of its residents. I would hope residents around the county would join in and help us better serve both sides of the county, and maybe by understanding each other a little bit better, some of the Meeker-Rangely rivalry can be eliminated.

Deadlines are another area of concern.
The deadline for briefs and stories of upcoming events should be in the Herald Times’ hands by noon on Monday. Monday afternoon is spent finishing up stories from within the office and the correspondents as well as editing, rewriting and handling photos that come into the paper from local residents and other locations.
Happenings that are not known in advance such as obituaries, major accidents, crimes, etc., have a deadline of about 10 a.m. on Tuesday. That gives me until noon to get all the stories together and be ready to start assembling the paper at noon.
That deadline is pretty inflexible except for truly major happenings such as shootings, prominent local deaths, local public officials resigning, etc.
A phone call to me is the easiest way to find out if any late event can make it. Routine news and upcoming events that were known to be coming up for quite some time will not break the deadlines. But we have been pretty flexible in the past and hope to be in the future — with serious breaking news.

Now to change the subject a bit, it hasn’t gone unnoticed the number of individuals and businesses that seem to hit the streets right after a large snowstorm in Rangely or Meeker.
Early in the morning after a good snow, it seems that many if not most private vehicles on the streets are OHVs or four-wheel drive SUVs pushing snow out of the main traffic routes, and then they move to the off-main-drag neighborhood streets getting rid of problematic drifts and cleaning up many of the hill streets so cars can get through.
Phil Mass of Family Automotive plows the entire alley between Fifth and Sixth streets between Main and Market streets in Meeker and he makes certain there is a turn lane off of Sixth so drivers can get to his business, the drive-through at the bank and even into the backside of the Meeker Motel/Cafe.
But he is only one of many individuals and businesses that do the same thing so that by mid- to late-morning, many of the major streets and inclines are navigable without problems.
This is, once again, a great example of community and one of the reasons Rio Blanco County, Meeker and Rangely are good places to live. They are filled with good people ready and willing to help out.

The Broncos won the first game with the Chargers, employing a great game plan.
They came back in the second game with a lousy game plan.
Let’s hope they learned something from the second game and that Peyton Manning has another great performance, not a repeat of the lethargic performance against the Chargers last time.
Go Broncos!