Editorial: What’s the purpose of a local newspaper?

Niki Turner, Editor

Niki Turner, Editor
Niki Turner, Editor
RBC I First of all, hello! My husband Pat and I are excited about our return to Rio Blanco County.
We’re looking forward to meeting new people and getting reacquainted with old friends. We’ve been away for four years and we’re glad to be moving back to where we raised our family from 1998 to 2012.
I’m excited and a little nervous to write this introductory column. Newspapers and the newspaper business have been a major part of my life since I was 5 years old. I wonder sometimes if ink gets in the bloodstream and you can’t get it out.

My parents began a motor route newspaper distributorship in the Roaring Fork Valley when I was in kindergarten. I rode along with them in the early morning hours (starting at 2 a.m., seven days a week) sleeping on the floorboards of the pickup while they delivered the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News.
Their distributorship expanded over the years to include the Denver Post, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, from Glenwood Springs to Aspen and everywhere in between. Thankfully, I only had to ride along for the first few years.
Some of my early memories involve being awakened by a ringing telephone in the pre-dawn hours to explain to elderly Mrs. Williams in Glenwood that I didn’t know why her paper was late because I was only 10-years-old. She called at least once a week anyway. People get very emotional about their newspapers.
When I turned 16 and could drive I got my own route, starting at 4 a.m. weekdays and 2 a.m. weekends, filling racks and flinging papers out my Jeep window into driveways and lawns from Carbondale to Basalt.
At 18 I became the production manager for the Bargainhunter, a weekly shopper. I was hired as a typesetter, typing in classifieds, but the production manager walked out two weeks after I started work. We were just transitioning from the old days of wax rollers, cut-and-paste, and border tape to the new world of desktop publishing, and I was young enough to read the manual and figure out the program, so the job became mine. Learn-as-you-go has been a way of life for me.
I took a hiatus from the paper business to get married, have four beautiful children, and moved to Meeker with my husband.
I started working at the Herald Times 16 years ago this month, and have filled various positions over the years. For the last two I’ve been working remotely from my family’s ranch near Harvey Gap as the production manager and page designer.
Sitting in the editor/publisher seat is something entirely different than anything I’ve done so far. Taking on the responsibility of a 132-year-old newspaper—one of only a few independently owned and operated newspapers in Colorado—is a weighty thing.
For the last few weeks I’ve been examining my thoughts and beliefs about what a local newspaper should be, especially in this modern digital age.
There’s a lot of (mostly accurate) grumbling about “mass media” and “corporate media” these days, and it’s easy to lump all media outlets into that group, but a local newspaper is a different creature than your network television news or a giant media conglomerate. Or it should be, in my opinion.
A local newspaper is a living history textbook. It tells the stories of the people it represents and the journey they are on together. Within its pages we should see pictures of our kids and grandkids, find announcements of marriages and births and obituaries, read about the interesting things your friends and neighbors are accomplishing or learn about their struggles (and hopefully be inspired to offer congratulations or lend a helping hand). While ESPN probably isn’t going to report on the local high school’s homecoming football game, the community newspaper will.
And while many of us use social media for a lot of those things now (and we’ll be making more use of those outlets for your convenience both in getting the news and in helping our advertisers market their businesses) there’s nothing quite like seeing your name in print or being able to cut out your grandchild’s birth announcement to frame, or saving a loved one’s obituary in the family Bible or a scrapbook. Printing it out yourself at home just isn’t quite the same. There’s something about having it “in the paper” that validates and immortalizes an event in a way a tweet or a Facebook post can’t.
By the way, we will continue to print announcements and obituaries free of charge, so don’t hesitate to email them or drop them by the office. If they have a local connection, they are part of our collective story. Took a fabulous picture this week? Don’t just put it on Instagram, send it to the paper. We’ll make every effort to include it as space allows.
Additionally, and of greater weight and importance, the local paper should keep you informed about the goings-on in your local government, because there’s nowhere else you’re going to get that information unless you’re willing to attend all those board and council meetings in person yourself, and who has time for that? We’ll make every effort to cover the town and county meetings, as well as school boards and other taxing-district boards. Will we get to them all? Probably not, but we’re going to make a Herculean effort.
On that note, I’m asking for your help. A newspaper, perhaps more than other businesses, doesn’t operate in a vacuum. If you have a story idea, or a suggestion for something you’d like to see in the paper, please drop us an email, call the office, or send us a message on Facebook. We aren’t omniscient. We need “citizen reporters” to feed us information, to give us a “heads up” about things that are going on throughout the county.
People are the news, and you are the people. This is your story!
We also need—and are eternally grateful to—all our local advertisers. Yes, that’s a shameless request to our current and future advertisers to let us know about your clearance sales and your special offers and your new products. We want to help you reach your customers and help you market your business. The newspaper is one of the best possible ways to let local customers know what’s available, and keep those dollars in town, which benefits all of us.
Like the owners who have gone before us, this will be a family affair. My husband, Pat, and I will be working together with our daughter, Caitlin Walker, to make the paper the best it can be.
We’re going to be very busy in the days to come. If you’re in Rangely this weekend, we’ll have a booth at Septemberfest on Monday, Sept. 5. Come by and say hello! And we’ll be out and about during the Meeker Classic next week.
We look forward to hearing from you in the days to come. I believe together we can continue to make the Rio Blanco Herald Times something we can all be proud of for generations to come.

1 Comment

  1. Welcome back to town and congrats on you acquisition of our local newspaper, we know you will do a bang up job.

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