Letters to the editor | VailDaily.com

Letters to the editor

Brian Powell

The greatest threat facing democracy in America today is not terrorism, drugs, poverty, or taxes. It is right here, looming in the smeared print of the Vail Daily and other local papers where many Americans receive their news. A free and effective press is what prevents corrupt governments from sprouting, reveals corporate scandal, and provides the citizenry with the information they need to make informed decisions as voters and consumers. However, effective press is sorely lacking in the Vail Valley. The Vail Daily is a bumbling, incompetent organization which frequently makes errors in judgment as well as basic mistakes at the lowest levels of printed news.Generally, market competition tempers the behaviors of businesses – moderating prices and wages, ensuring quality products, and providing natural checks and balances. However, in our community, as in many others, one newspaper serves an entire valley without any sort of accountability. This cannot be allowed to continue, as the well-being of the Vail community and the minds of our fellow citizens are at stake.The Vail Daily has become lazy, taking for granted its role as the only purveyor of the public voice. Businesses contributing advertising money to the Daily are often dismayed to see that their advertisements appear changed from the submitted form or are riddled with spelling errors and inaccuracies. This inefficiency is coupled by a lack of any significant or insightful coverage of business and economic issues, a major cornerstone of Vail. For a newspaper whose sole revenue comes from the pockets of its advertisers, these are severe liabilities. Rather, they ought to be liabilities, but they are not, because the Vail Daily holds all the cards in this town. There are no other means for business owners to reach so many consumers. And of course advertising costs continue to go up as a result of this monopoly. Businesses are handcuffed to this mediocre publication in order to stay competitive.The people of Vail are similarly manacled, for the Daily is their only source of local news and their only forum for public opinion. Senseless, and often libelous or racist, comments are posted for public amusement in the anonymous Tipsline section of the Vail Daily editorials. While this appeals to the basest of emotions for some readers, it does not serve to advance the public good in any way. Tipsline simply allows the most ignorant and cowardly miscreants a chance to fire verbal RPGs from the shadows of anonymity. This is no judgment on who should have a voice and who shouldn’t. We all have a voice in our democracy, and we should all stand behind what we say, come good or bad.Were Tipsline and a lack of business awareness the only faults of the Vail Daily, I might be inclined to think they could be remedied with a certain amount of pressure from we, the people, and some newly discovered resolve on their part. But their indolence and ineptitude runs deeper into the veins of their publication than any average pill can cure. The time may have come for a new publication to take the reins of public discourse in Vail. At the very least, a revolution of leadership needs to take place within the Daily.This is an organization whose obsession with sensationalism rivals most tabloids. Front page headlines are often extreme stretches from the actual concepts of the stories they represent. For instance, The A1 headline for Sept. 2 states, “Hate crimes rarely prosecuted.” This leads the reader to believe that hate crimes are rampant in Eagle County, and that the justice system is turning a blind eye in the name of prejudice. Upon reading the article, we find that few hate crimes have been prosecuted, because few people have ever been charged with the crime. In fact, no ethnic intimidation charges have been filed in the last two years in Eagle County, according to the article. Other than a speculative quote from a law enforcement official, there is no evidence that the crime is under-reported, significantly or otherwise. The article’s first paragraph, (which fails, like many other Daily articles, to adhere to the point of the article), even reveals the dire problem to be one of name-calling amongst kids and teenagers.Within the same issue, the Vail Daily prints an article on the Kidstruction Zone’s upcoming events. However, the exact same article was printed, word-for-word, just two days before. In addition, they printed the date of Kidstruction’s activities as Saturday, when events were planned for Friday. Blue Creek Productions had to scramble to change their plans as a result of the Daily’s error. There is no greater example of journalistic sloth, and this is just one of many careless mistakes the paper makes on a weekly basis.These circumstances are not native to Vail. Journalism and democracy are being threatened across the United States by media companies focusing more on sensationalism and profit rather than serving the public good. Ironically, the Vail Daily doesn’t profit from shocking headlines, as its revenue is almost entirely based in advertising. Nevertheless, Vail suffers from the Daily’s monopoly on its market, as so many other one-paper communities suffer from their own media dominions.The staff of the Vail Daily is probably well-meaning. Yet like any beast spoiled by the absence of predators, the organization has grown fat and lazy. The time has come for wolves to be reintroduced into marketplace.Brian PowellEditor’s note: Mr. Powell’s points are well taken. However, he’s made a few erroneous assumptions. The Daily’s advertising rates, for instance, are 31 percent LOWER than comparable papers across the nation. If we were selling gas, it would cost quite a bit less than $3 a gallon. Every submission for commentary is edited for libel, overt racism, inappropriate language and so on. We don’t decide what we think would be an OK public topic for readers to express their views about. We do make errors, as every paper in America does, and each one draws blood. We are highly aware that our work is wide open to public scrutiny. We also track errors, and galling as each mistake is to everyone, our overall rate actually has gone way down from previous years, not up. Finally, Mr. Powell has no clue whatsoever of how hard Daily staffers work or how absolutely committed they are to their high calling. On balance they do an excellent job, and they work hard to keep improving. Enjoys columnsThis is in response to Arthur Blank II’s letter to the editor Sept. 7. I agree we live in a great country. I am thankful for all the freedoms we enjoy here; one of which is freedom of speech. It is wonderful that we can voice our different opinions without fear of persecution. With that said, I do believe that Mr. Blank owes Mr. Zalaznick an apology for implying that he was high while writing for the Vail Daily. I do not know Mr. Blank nor what he is basing this insinuation on. Is it based on personal experience or is it based on observing the others who he mentions in his letter – Limbaugh (oxycontin) or our president (alcohol)? While he is at it, Mr. Blank should also apologize for threatening to hire someone to crush Mr. Zalaznick. No one likes a bully. Mr. Blank and I both enjoy Mr. Zalaznick’s writing. However, I believe Matt Zalaznick is very awake and smelling the roses. Like Mr. Blank, I am also inspired to make contributions to the political party of my choice. Isn’t freedom grand?Tracy GordonVailVail, Colorado