Towns, like family, are different, yet also the same

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RBC — I have four children, and I love them all equally. But each one is different. And, in some cases, very different.
As any parent knows, kids have unique characteristics and wants and attitudes, as well as problems and issues and dreams that are peculiar to them.
There are similarities and family traits that run through all four of my kids, but yet they are so different, not only in appearance, but mostly in personality. Because of those differences, what they demand and want and look for from me, as their father, depends on the need or the situation or the urgency of the crisis at the time. It varies from kid to kid, depending on the moment.
For me, that’s how I view the newspaper’s constant effort to provide balanced coverage of ALL of Rio Blanco County. We strive to cover both Meeker and Rangely in equal measure. But, we do so knowing that circumstances beyond our control as well as events and the natural ebb and flow of community life will dictate to a large degree what is covered in the newspaper.
Coming into this job, I received ample warning there would be times when I would hear from either Rangely folks or Meeker folks, who would feel slighted by the newspaper’s lack of coverage from their respective town.
Unfortunately, it’s bound to happen. Not because we favor one town over the other, but it depends mostly on the news of the week, the availability of space, and what stories and photos we have to work with.
I remember Mitch Bettis, who used to be in this job, telling me he kept a running tally of the number of stories and photos from both Meeker and Rangely that appeared in the newspaper. The results varied from week to week, as you would expect, but over the course of time, they were pretty darn even, he said.
But, in all honesty, there are those times when we don’t do a good job of balancing out the stories, though when that happens it’s not calculated or intentional.
And, sometimes, the perceived coverage is different from the reality. That goes back to the running tally Mitch used to keep. It can be hard to change or overcome people’s perceptions. But, because we are aware those opinions exist, we make a concerted effort to balance out the coverage from both ends of the county, as best we can.
As The New Guy, I have no prejudices or biases toward either town. I live in Meeker because I was fortunate enough to find a little house to rent, but mostly because the newspaper’s main office is located here. However, we maintain an office in Rangely and we have a team of people there who help us out by covering events and submitting stories from the west end of the county.
My weekly routine includes spending time in Rangely, calling on advertisers, talking to community leaders, just getting to know the area. Even though I hear people complain about the stretch between Meeker and Rangely, I enjoy it. Keep in mind, I was a flatlander for most of my life. And if you think the western part of Rio Blanco County is flat, then you have never driven through western Kansas. Now, that is flat.
I’ve been here only a few short weeks, but it didn’t take long for me to hear people in one town talking bad about the people in the other town. It’s sort of like a sibling rivalry. It reminds me of when my kids fight with each other. They may scream and yell at each other — and sometimes over the silliest things — but they always make up. After all, they are family.
That’s the way it is, or it should be, in northwest Colorado. We are all part of the same family who call this area home.
I spent six years in southwest Kansas, which is the most isolated, most remote part of the state. People in that area are accustomed to being overlooked, to feeling ignored. Because they don’t have the big population centers that demand the state’s attention, they have to fight for everything they get. It seems to me it’s much the same in northwest Colorado.
I attended the annual fish fry Saturday, sponsored by the White River Community Association. Some of the folks I met live “upriver,” as they say around here, and some live in Meeker. And I also visited with a number from the western end of the county. People like Bud Striegel and John Boyd, the president of Northwest Colorado Community College, whom I had just met the day before.
It made me think about the diversity — as well as the commonality — that we have on both ends of the county, and how those unique qualities should be embraced. While each town is fiercely independent — and I understand and respect that — when it comes to Rio Blanco County, our attitude should be we’re all in this together. We may fight and cuss each other from time to time, but at the end of the day, we are bound together economically, geographically and historically.
We’re like family. Just like Carrie, Clay, Catie and Chloe.