Bleeding the Black Ink

Coming together to communicate

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It might have been a meeting of contentious finger pointing.

But it turned out to be one of constructive criticism and productivity that will help build a better relationship.

The meeting I'm talking about was a roundtable discussion called "Defining Roles of Local Government and Media," and included representatives of the newspaper, the Moffat County Commission and readers of the Craig Daily Press.

The meeting was sponsored by the Ford Foundation through the Associated Press Managing Editors Association and held at CNCC.

The basis of "credibility roundtables" are to reestablish connections between readers and newspapers. The APME selects a few proposals from those submitted throughout the country to sponsor.

There have been dozens and dozens of roundtable discussions held throughout the country and have covered a wide array of subjects including dealing with a conflict of interest, covering religion, covering non-profits, and covering crime and what the public needs to know or wants to know.

Our plan was to bring governmental entities and readers together to discuss what they perceive as what we are doing right and what we could improve upon and what we could expect from each other.

The meeting was attended by readers John Ponikvar and Pat Moralez, commissioners Marianna Raftopoulos and Darryl Steele, Craig Daily Press publisher Samantha Johnston and myself and was moderated by CNCC instructor Galen Clark and Mary Shearer, CNCC's director of public information and community education.

The meeting started off with people's perceptions of the roles of the local media and local government.

Some of the topics raised included:

  • Misinformation and the placement of corrections to rectify the misinformation.
  • Balance, fairness, accuracy
  • Unbiased coverage
  • Perception of what is negative and what is positive.
  • The "watchdog" role of the press.
  • The public's reliance on the press for information.

The discussion was lively and interesting.

The readers, represented by Ponikvar and Moralez, said they had seen a swing in the coverage provided by the Daily Press over the years. From what might have been an overly friendly view of government to a more aggressive stance on such coverage.

From the county's position they wanted to see more balanced coverage. They believe the Craig Daily Press often focuses on the negative and doesn't often report stories on the positive aspects of county government.

Solutions to perceived problems were discussed, such as the county hosting media briefings in which greater communication could occur and issues explored in greater detail.

The bottom line of the meeting I believe was the opening up of a dialogue where before there was either none or insufficient dialogue.

Both newspaper representatives and county government representatives came to conclusions that there were issues that could be improved upon.

And it was done in a respectful, positive, productive manner.

This will be the first of what hopefully will be a series of meetings to better understand what government does, what a newspaper does and what readers expect.

Does this mean that all parties will be pleased with each other all of the time? Of course not. But it will bring about a basis of understanding where there may have been simple suspicions of motive and conjecture before.

Government and the media can play a vital role in the lives of our readers and the Craig Daily Press realizes this and that is why this meeting was held and more meetings will be held in the future.

"Bleeding the Black Ink" is a weekly column that aims at getting readers better acquainted with the Craig Daily Press, the First Amendment and the newspaper industry. Do you have a question or an issue for an upcoming column? Call Terrance Vestal at 824-7031 or email him at tvestal@craigdailypress.com.

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