All the news that’s fit to print…and more
The irony struck me yesterday morning as two seemingly distinct things happened. I looked through a week’s worth of Daily Sentinels accumulated while gone on a quick unexpected trip. And I opened the latest of a six-day-a-week email newsletter available to Associated Press retirees.
Monday’s edition of the latter contained an attention-grabbing screed from a conservative columnist dancing enthusiastically and colorfully on the perceived grave of the mainstream media. The title, “We’re Laughing at the Self-Destruction of the Media Gatekeepers,” might tell you all you need to know.
Then I read a four-part series on the failure of our social services system to protect Mesa County children killed while supposedly under societal protection. And I saw Sunday’s detailed front page story on recently announced power plant shutdowns in Craig and Nucla, the latest shoe to drop as market forces and policy changes impact energy-dependent western Colorado communities.
Processing all that information, I had trouble envisioning any corpse resembling this newspaper, despite familiarity with well-documented travails in the industry and knowing current local economic realities affect The Sentinel as much as any other business.
News junkie that I am, I haven’t always treated newspapers kindly. “Leadsetters” was the pejorative term I used as a young broadcaster, referencing a long-abandoned production process that assured the “new” was gone from the “news” long before a printed page appeared in soon-to-be ink smudged hands.
That was back in a time when radio stations actually had reporters rather than news readers (my first full-time job after college was as a junior member of a seven person news staff at a Phoenix music station)… when television stations had investigative reporters developing serious news stories on a regular basis rather than occasional provocatively-titled series during ratings periods.
The old journalism adage I learned decades ago in college — that radio news provided immediacy, television added visuals, newspapers provided detail and magazines added perspective — became muddled as we advanced into the digital age. Some of those media disappeared and others abandoned their strengths but one thing remained a certainty.
So long as people are curious, there’ll be a place for a good reporter given the time and support to go beyond the obvious and ask the questions necessary to provide a better understanding of the forces and events that impact our lives and our communities. No matter where technology takes us, it’s only the latest tool in the hands of a good journalist, whether their final product arrives in print, via the airwaves, on the internet or anywhere else.
While some lament and a few may celebrate recent tough times in the newspaper industry, there’s another certainty.
In most communities, particularly those of our size, it’s the local newspaper that provides the reporters and resources to inform and engage us in important issues such as those we’ve read about on the front page of the Daily Sentinel in recent days.
It’s one important first step to simply report the unfortunate deaths of children as a result of placements by agencies supposedly charged with ensuring their safety and quite another to delve more deeply into the ethics and legality of those placements. It’s quick and relatively easy to tally job losses from mine closures and power plant shutdowns. It’s time consuming harder work to go beyond self-serving blame games and delve into what’s really behind those events… to put names and faces to statistics and get “the rest of the story” as radio commentator Paul Harvey used to say.
We should applaud the work Erin McIntyre and Gabrielle Porter did in their “Failure to Protect” series and that Dennis Webb does consistently as he reports on the headwinds affecting the energy industry and its impacts in western Colorado. Regardless of how we may feel about opinions that appear here on The Daily Sentinel’s editorial pages, we should also thank a publisher and ownership that provides the support necessary, financial and otherwise, for an editorial staff to keep us well informed as they all navigate tricky waters in their industry.
”…Journalists thrive on not knowing exactly what the future holds. That’s part of the excitement. Something interesting, something important, will happen somewhere, as sure as God made sour apples, and a good aggressive newspaper will become part of that something.”
— Ben Bradlee, former Washington Post editor