Peterson: Tell us how we’re doing at the Vail Daily
Newspapers are great at telling the stories of the communities we cover and the local businesses that advertise with us.
But telling our own story?
The Department of Irony should investigate.
Or, as one publisher said at a big newspaper conference I recently attended in Dallas: “Things we sell to our customers, we suck at doing for ourselves. Shouldn’t we be the best?”
That’s hard to argue. Then again, it’s counter-intuitive for most journalists to talk about the work we do and tout our roles in supporting a healthy democracy and fostering civic engagement.
Support Local Journalism
Report the story, don’t become the news. Be neutral and unbiased and keep your personal beliefs to yourself. These tenets of the profession have certainly been challenged in recent years as journalists with essential lived experience have crossed the threshold from covering social justice movements to actively participating in them while sharing their opinions in their reporting.
But the old rules still mostly hold up. We’re much better at turning the spotlight on other people in the interest of the public good than we are at turning it on ourselves to speak up about why news matters.
If we don’t speak up for ourselves, though, who will? That’s apparent as local newspapers across the country continue to shutter at a rate of about two per week.
What is being lost when local news goes away? Accountability, for starters. Studies have repeatedly shown that, in the absence of journalists playing a watchdog role, government waste increases while civic engagement declines.
Political polarization also surges. In the absence of a trusted local news source, residents only fall deeper into their echo chambers with a news diet consisting solely of social media, talk radio, cable news or national outlets.
Did you know that eight out of 10 newspaper readers vote in national or state elections? Or that one-half of newspaper readers vote every time in local elections? Did you know that 43% of Americans report that newspapers are the most accurate and reliable source of original news reporting? Or that six out of 10 Americans use newspaper advertising to decide what brands, products and local services to buy?
That’s all from the most recent national study commissioned by America’s Newspapers to assess the state of local journalism in the United States.
Local newspapers like the Vail Daily are the heartbeat of their communities. Or at least they have been. When those trusted news sources wither or die off, communities suffer. Democracy suffers. A precious local conversation goes away.
Yes, we journalists can be strange creatures. Those of us who work in the Vail Daily newsroom are a little quirky (maybe an understatement) and certainly altruistic. Outside of the amazing Tricia Swenson, none of us are going to win a fashion contest anytime soon. We also tend to be passionate about things that most people don’t care about like public records, meeting agendas, arrest affidavits and town budgets.
But, trust me, this community is a much better place with us in it. You want us at local government meetings and digging into public records. If not us, who will ask the uncomfortable questions and hold those in positions of power accountable for their decisions? Who spotlights the good works and notable accomplishments of local residents? Where else can you get insider advice from trusted locals to help you plan your weekend or your family vacation?
And, let’s be honest, those dog photos in Town Talk and #VailLive don’t just magically show up in the paper. The Vail Daily remains the exception to the rule when it comes to legacy media. We’re a much smaller operation than when I arrived for my first tour of duty in 2003, yet we remain the source for all things that matter to anyone who cares about the Vail Valley.
That’s not true of so many other newspapers nowadays, including my hometown paper where I logged my first bylines. Facing ongoing layoffs and staffing crises, so many local papers have become reliant on wire stories of things happening elsewhere.
Whether it’s reporting on Vail Resorts, the local economy, local government, crime and public safety, housing, education, health, transportation, outdoor recreation, the valley’s vibrant arts and entertainment scene, or local sports, you can still find it all on our website and in the pages of our print edition.
That doesn’t mean we can’t be better. As mentioned, a newspaper is only as good as the reporting and commentary it provides. What good is it if it doesn’t reflect the community it serves?
That’s why we’re asking you to give us your opinion in our latest reader survey. If you have thoughts, ideas, tips or criticisms, please let us know. It’s your newspaper, not ours.
The survey should take about seven minutes to complete. You can expect questions about where you live, how often and where you read the Vail Daily, where you get your news, and what topics interest you the most.
As an incentive to take the questionnaire, we will randomly select three survey respondents who provide their email addresses to each win a $100 Visa gift card. The survey is open through May 1. Go to VailDaily.com/ReaderSurvey to take the survey and share your thoughts.
We can’t wait to hear from you.
Nate Peterson is the editor of the Vail Daily. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.