Spezia: Opinions have overtaken facts in newspaper’s coverage of annexation
Recently, I read a peer-reviewed article from an experienced journalist who traded her notepad in for research on her profession. She studied 11 municipalities and their newspaper interactions with their communities for nine years. These newspapers were suffering from online competition and shareholder’s demand for higher return on their investments. The result was cutting reporting staff, overloading reporters, lack of investigative reporting and outside generic news used as fillers. She analyzed the impacts on the local elections and found out that fewer elections were contested and incumbents won by a large number of votes. From further investigation, she found out that the reduction of newspaper staff, lack of investigative reporting and the takeover by regional corporations of local papers has left communities in the dark as to what is transpiring in their local governments. As a result there was less participation in the democratic processes and less information available for the community to act upon.
Out of curiosity, I reviewed the last four Steamboat Springs City Council election cycles and found out that almost half of the races were not contested, and the incumbents or those candidates with name recognition won by large margins.
As I reflected upon these results, I thought of Dee Richards and Joanna Dodder who were reporters from the days of the local Steamboat Pilot. They raised questions and sought out the answers that energized us with informative and original investigative reporting. Now, it seems we have to read more questionable information or public relation press releases with little investigation as to the validity of that information.
Opinions seem to have overtaken facts these day. But now, the words, “fact check” have been substituted for opinions. How will a community deal with newspapers which act as a free promotional venue when the rest of us have to pay for our messages to be printed, or we are only allowed a once-per-month letter to the editor?
In 2011, during the Steamboat 700 debate, there were side-by-side views printed in the paper by each of the proponents instead of the developers promotional literature treated as a newspaper report. There is still time for our local newspaper to correct this bias and be a community newspaper for all the community.
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