From the editor: The Record revisited
October 31, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Many newspapers around the country print "police blotters," and the Steamboat Pilot & Today is among those. The Pilot has been publishing "The Record" for decades, and for the reporters tasked with compiling the information, it becomes an art.
Every morning a call log is automatically emailed to the newspaper from Routt County Dispatch, and it includes a list of incidents that Routt County Sheriff's Office, the Steamboat Springs Police Department and area fire departments responded to the previous day. Each entry includes only the case number, incident type, address, agency and date. It's then up to the reporter to peruse the list and find the calls he or she thinks are most important or intriguing and some that reflect the small-town character of Steamboat Springs. The reporter then calls the agency involved to gather more information.
The daily call log sometimes results in news stories if officers have made a serious felony arrest or firefighters have responded to a major incident, but more often than not, the individual calls become anonymous entries in The Record.
Some of the entries are humorous, reminding readers that Steamboat is still a place where police officers rescue dogs and cats, break up arguments and give people rides home, while other entries are more serious, pointing out issues of public concern, like public drunkenness, drinking and driving and drug overdoses.
And while The Record remains very popular with our readers, I recently had reason to stop and consider its true value after it was brought to my attention that the information contained in the daily write-up was creating a false impression that our local law enforcement officers and firefighters aren't very busy, which couldn't be further from the truth.
Take for example, The Record for Monday, Oct. 29. The call log contained a list of 63 incidents but we included only 10 calls in our write-up. Taken at face value, without knowing how The Record is compiled, readers could jump to the conclusion that our police and firefighters have a lot of time on their hands.
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So after careful consideration and a few conversations with Steamboat Springs Police Chief Cory Christensen, we have decided to add some additional information to The Record each day to better reflect the true activity levels of our law enforcement agencies, firefighters and first responders. These men and women are hardworking professionals, and the Pilot does not want to publish incomplete information that takes away or minimizes the important work they do day in and day out to keep our communities safe.
Beginning Thursday, Nov. 1, we will provide an overview of total calls logged by each department to provide our readers with a more accurate understanding of how active our police officers, sheriff's deputies and firefighters truly are. This information will be added to the bottom of The Record along with a general explanation of its purpose.
Longtime crimes and court reporter Matt Stensland, who has been the main author of The Record for the past six years, believes the daily write-up continues to be valuable.
"The Record's purpose, in my opinion, is to give the community a glimpse of daily police activity and to help answer the question of where that police car or fire truck was going," Stensland said. "It also forces our journalists to check in with the cops on a daily basis, so we can do thorough police and breaking news reporting.
"The Record has also served a valuable purpose in identifying crime trends in our community and alerting community members so they can take efforts to help ensure they will not be a victim of a crime," Stensland added.
Changes to The Record were prompted by reader input, so please feel free to contact me at lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com if you have feedback about anything you see or read in the newspaper — online or in print. I'm always happy to discuss new ideas and perspectives, and sometimes, those conversations result in a change that makes us better.