Where is the insta-news on important local events?

“If it’s news, it’s news to us”

Back in the day, the license plate on my car read NEWS4U.  That was my second choice when I first obtained the vanity plate for the vehicle provided me by my former employer, the Associated Press. 

The plate stayed with me when I left the AP to go into the radio business here in my hometown. It was finally retired from active duty six or seven years ago.  It now sits in a box out in the garage, a victim of recent redecorating that included dismantling the “ego wall” in my home office.

Had the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles allowed seven-digit vanity plates back then, it would have read NEWS2US, the short form of “If it’s news, it’s news to us.” The motto with the intended double meaning was concocted by someone in the irreverent corps of folks I worked with, probably at one of the infrequent staff meetings known to produce such things as a not-so-fondly-remembered recipe for dill pickle daiquiris.

Stay with me here … there’s a point to this reflection.  It has to do with the state of the news business these days and my fear that we’re now living in an age when the irreverence of my former colleagues and me may have come to unintended fruition.

Last Saturday evening, after mis-sing my first county assembly in decades, I started searching for results of the day’s events, hoping to find out which of the multitude of candidates had survived the first hurdle in their attempts at local political office. Turns out that unless you were one of the few hundred folks who attended those gatherings, that’s information that’s hard to find, even in these days of supposed near-instantaneous digital dissemination.

One of our local stations, KJCT, managed to do its whole 5 p.m. newscast without mentioning the fact that both Democrats and Republicans had met hours earlier that day to begin determining who’ll preside over local county government for the next four years.  I suppose I should have been grateful, after a half hour of viewing, to have seen recaps of days-old stories about avoiding jury duty in Denver, California gas prices and a Front Range plane crash. I did manage to catch a brief but incomplete story on KKCO’s 5:30 p.m. newscast.

I didn’t even try to find local news on any of our radio stations. That medium long ago abandoned any original reporting for quick recaps of local newspaper headlines and reliance on national networks.

These days, the Internet is supposed to be the evolving source of information, embraced by traditional media as well as all those “citizen journalists” and commentators.  But there was a similar dearth of information there.

No mention at all at the websites of KKCO, KREX or KJCT several hours after the party assemblies had ended. Ditto at the Internet addresses of The Daily Sentinel and the Grand Junction Free Press and for such former leading radio news sources as KEKB and KNZZ. (Editor’s note : The Sentinel did carry stories on the contested Republican county assembly in its print edition Sunday morning.)

In desperation, I turned to the local blogosphere, hoping even some slanted perspective might provide the information I was seeking.  Nothing but links to national conservative rants on former Mayor Gene Kinsey’s blog, The Grand Life. Ditto from self-styled conservative crusader Rick Wagner, whose War on Wrong apparently doesn’t include local politics. As of Monday morning, still no mention from somewhere to the left of those two on Ralph D’Andrea’s Junction Daily Blog. 

In my college journalism classes back in the dark ages, I was taught that radio news provided immediacy, television added pictures, newspapers provided detail and magazines offered perspective. Obviously, that’s all muddled and dated with the advent of the Internet and the evolution of the news business. But it’s apparent we’re still a long way from promises of information on demand or even 24-hour access to anything but national news and commentary.

Back in my earlier, even more self-righteous days, I left my first post-college news job in a huff, exiting the rock and roll radio station with a six-person news staff, two news cars and shelves full of awards after scrawling “No news is good news” on the newsroom assignment board in protest of some change in station news policies I no longer remember.

Little did I know …


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