Paper’s not a tourist brochure |

Paper’s not a tourist brochure

Alex Miller

At a recent meeting of the Vail Chamber & Business Association, several members expressed concerns about how things are timed for release in the newspaper. In other words, was there any way we could avoid a front page headline about something negative during, say, Christmas week?People might get the wrong impression. Since Staff Writer Scott Miller and I were visiting the chamber as part of our “Vail Daily Road Show” outreach project, we heard the concerns and didn’t say much in response. We were there mostly to listen, but there was little we haven’t heard before. While it is an understandable complaint from people who rely on tourism income for their livelihoods, a newspaper is not part of the sales effort. We’re supposed tell the news of the day, good, bad or somewhere in between.Every day, the Vail Daily publishes at least nine pages of local and regional news. These are stories that distinguish us from any other paper in the world because the focus is all on Eagle County and the surrounding area. Fortunately, we happen to live in an area where not a lot of truly bad things happen. It’s a rare occasion to have any of those big-city crimes like rape, murder or terrorism – although we have had all of them at different times.Our top stories, then, aren’t always what you might call barn burners – at least not compared to a metro daily or CNN. Because our lead stories are almost always local, and because our local stories are seldom exactly scandalous, there are times when it might seem like we’re overplaying things. Some critics might even suggest we do this to “sell papers,” even though we’re free.The bottom line is that the lead stories we play on a given day generally are the news of the day. In the newsroom, our chief responsibility is to that great mass of readers, not a business or any other special interest group.The foremost and crucial question in all coverage is this: What’s the news for readers? How are they affected, and what are their interests and what do they need to know? It doesn’t matter if it’s Sept. 17, Dec. 31 or July 4. There are times, it must be said, when we write headlines that can give the impression that something is hotter than the facts suggest. It’s not to “sell papers” when we do this. Sometimes it’s just poor headline writing (we write a lot of them; they ain’t all perfect). Sometimes, a headline is shortened to fit the space and, in the process, it loses some nuance. These things unfortunately happen in a deadline business such as ours. That’s not an excuse, but an explanation followed by a promise that we’re always striving to do better.As to whether the city editor will ever start budgeting stories to coincide with the special interests of any particular groups or individuals, we can only say this: not likely. We wouldn’t be a very credible newspaper if we tinkered with the timing of our news stories. They wouldn’t be news, then.Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 615, or Colorado

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