We (my daughter/co-owner and I) are headed to our first Colorado Press Association (CPA) convention Thursday. This working trip is the closest thing to a vacation either of us have had in 588 days.
My daughter spent a week in Vail last summer ushering her hubby to the orthopedic surgeon after he destroyed his knee in a riding lawn mower accident (it was scarier than it sounds). She’s due for a vacay, too, maybe more than me, since I’m not working from home with four tiny people under my supervision.
It will snow… at least on Vail Pass… because that’s what happens when I head over the “hill,” whether it’s April or July. That’s a damper on any trip, in my opinion, but can’t be avoided.
The paper has received Colorado Press Association awards in three categories this year. I’m excited about those awards—they mean we’re doing something right in terms of journalism—but I’m more excited to talk to other newspaper people about our industry and how we’re going to adapt and survive the crazy things taking place, from tariffs to reversals on sales tax and public notices.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone make an offhand comment about how the newspaper “doesn’t have anything in it” (at Monday’s fire board forum, most recently). I’ve moved past my initial reaction of frenetic apologizing to asking, “When was the last time this person actually read the paper?” Frequently the complainers haven’t picked up a paper in years, and they’re almost never subscribers. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t read the paper for a few years there either, and I was responsible for putting the thing together every week. I believe we’ve made some improvements.
Another question I ask those who say there’s nothing in the paper is this: “Did anyone let us know what was happening, or were we expected to absorb the information via osmosis?”
Contrary to apparent belief, we’re neither omnipresent nor omniscient, nor have we perfected the cloning process (I’m working on it. No one will be happy with the results, trust me.) Community newspapers are dependent on community contributors. I know I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, if you want to see something in the paper, or think an event needs to be covered, please speak up (or at least copy us in on your Facebook post).
The handful of you who’ve taken the time to say something, I have your requests and suggestions in a file on my desktop. If we haven’t already addressed your suggestion, it’s because I need more warm bodies to act as “stringers.” If you’ve ever imagined writing for a newspaper, please drop me a line so we can chat.
My plea? Give the paper another peek. What you find might not make you happy (because happiness comes from within, and that’s beyond our control), and you’ll probably have opinions about how a story was covered, or where something landed in the layout (it goes where it fits), but at least you’ll be better informed.
On that note, as we’ve mulled the idea of adopting a tagline for the paper, so far the only thing we’ve come up with is “We Go to Meetings so You Don’t Have To.” It’s so much less edgy and dramatic than “Democracy Dies in Darkness” or even “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” but it is true. We’re attending meetings where your taxpayer dollars are being spent so you don’t have to take that time away from your family or work and can just read about the meeting on Thursday.
Are those meetings frequently boring? Yeah. Nine times out of 10 there’s no question why a board is spending money, or where, or how. But it’s still our job to check. That’s why we go to meetings. What’s our job? We’re the watchdogs.
I hate to think we’re those big white sheepdogs that love to chase cars and nip at cyclists, but that might be true. We’re always looking for the discrepancy, for the oddity, for the thing that will blow a deception wide open. More often than not we’re happily disappointed and our faith in mankind is restored.
We’re not to be feared, unless you’re a wolf in sheep’s clothing … then you might have a good reason to be nervous when we show up at a public meeting.