Guest Column: Rangely, do you know what’s happening in your community?

RANGELY | You know you are living in interesting times when the subject of “the news” is constantly in the news. Fake news, Russian news and mainstream vs off-stream media all hold regular spots in the media cycle. But why do these issues matter and why does anybody care enough to put the news in the news? The answer seems obvious: accurate, relevant news matters to a people who must be informed in order to meet their commitment as citizens in a representative democracy. This challenge to stay informed doesn’t just exist in the vacuum of national happenings, but local news as well. That’s why I was so shocked when I learned about the abysmal subscription rates of Rangelyites to the Herald Times.
In Rangely there are really only three ways to access local news: subscribing to the Rio Blanco Herald Times, taking your chances with your Facebook newsfeed, and even more terrifying—the rumor mill. Unfortunately, the last two seem to be the most popular form of news gathering around here. In fact, Rangely only boasts 89 subscriptions to the paper. Compared to Meeker’s subscription rate of 422 and the out of area subscription rate of 252 we look absolutely uninformed. Read that last sentence again. More people who don’t even live here are staying up on what is going on in our county than we in Rangely are.
Don’t get me wrong, Facebook and human-to human-discussion has a valuable place in our society, but it is certainly not enough. Nowhere besides the Herald Times are you going to get coverage of the town council, county commissioners and other taxing districts like the hospital, schools and recreation center. Nowhere else are you going to find a resource for staying up to date on what the local government is doing with your money and in your name.
The dirty little not-so-secret secret in most of the print media world is that newspapers are dying because everyone want to access their news in nontraditional routes. However, in Rio Blanco County, about 71 percent of the occupied homes in the county get the paper. That’s a number the Denver Post would envy. The problem is that it’s much higher on the Meeker side than the Rangely side, only about 38 percent.
If this trend continues to hold true for our community, we will find ourselves in a very dire situation. You aren’t going to learn about local governance on Breitbart or Fox News. Do we really want to live in a community where nobody is keeping an eye on our taxing entities?
I hear a lot of complaints and snide comments from locals who refer to the Herald Times as the “Meeker Paper.” If you are one of these people, I challenge you to take a look at the paper for a couple of weeks and pay attention to what is in there. A story’s town of origin is something that is tracked by the paper and we consistently offer balanced coverage between the two towns, despite the lopsided support both in readership and advertising.
We are always seeking story ideas, so if there’s something you think is getting missed, let us know. In the coming weeks you will see a survey online and in the paper asking for your thoughts on the future direction of the paper in Rangely. I urge you to take the survey and let us know how we can best serve the community’s information needs.
This democratic republic of ours only works if the masses are informed and educated. So ask yourself, do you know what’s going on locally? Do you know what decisions your elected officials and bureaucrats are making for you? If you can’t honestly say yes, then I suggest you head over to
theheraldtimes.com and subscribe to the paper. It’s cheaper than picking it up at the store and you will be sure to have the local news delivered directly to you each and every week. For less than what you’d spend on a bottle of Coke you can stay up to date on local news and take your place as an informed citizen. It is time that Rangely decides to care about Rangely. The first step in improving our community is knowing what is going on.

Jen Hill

Jen Hill is the Rangely correspondent for the Rio Blanco Herald Times.

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