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Bleeding the Black Ink

Building credibility, building relationships

Terrance Vestal

At the beginning of the year, the Associated Press Managing Editors Association put out what might be termed in “governmental-ese” as a request for proposals. The organization wanted to know about issues community newspapers were facing throughout the country and how it could help newspapers reestablish themselves with readers.

At the time, the Craig Daily Press had already had some intense run-ins with some of the local government agencies in Moffat County. We felt like we were just doing our jobs. But then we thought, “Do the agencies that we cover know what our job is?” “Are we fully familiar with the various aspects of governmental entities and the processes they go through?” “Do we do a good enough job explaining what we do, how we do it, why we do it and what readers can expect from us?” “Can we build a better forum so that area residents can understand why government does what it does, how it goes about what it does and what residents can expect from government?”

From these questions, we derived at a round table topic — “What are the roles of local media and local government.”



The idea is to bring representatives of county and city government to the same table at which there will be representatives of the newspaper and representatives of our readers.

The goal would be to discuss our perspective roles and expectations that we have of one another so that greater and understanding and greater respect for each other even in situations that become adversarial.



I’m happy to report that from several plans submitted from across the country, the APME picked our round table event, which will be fully funded through the Ford Foundation.

The Craig Daily Press’ proposal joins those that were submitted from other papers throughout the country, including the Orange County Register in California, which has a circulation of 320,000 compared to the Daily Press’ circulation of 3,200. Some of the credibility round tables from other papers that were approved and are currently in the works include:

  • Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Ala.), “We will be examining our coverage of K-12 education. Are we getting to the real issues? Are we a leader in telling the community about K-12 education? Race relations and public vs. private school coverage are likely subtopics.
  • Idaho Press-Tribune (Nampa, Idaho), “The clash between the farming community and the growing cities dominates our pages. Farmers and people who want to live in the country with all the comforts of the city are at odds and the politics of how to control or manage growth in the future just makes it very complicated. And, how do you cover ALL aspects of the environment, the economy and the people?”
  • Casper Star-Tribune (Casper, Wyo.), “We want to understand why many people in Wyoming believe we bring a “liberal slant” to the news.

At a meeting last night, members of the Craig City Council and the Moffat County Commission whole-heartedly endorsed our proposal of discussing “What are the roles of local media and local government” and we certainly appreciate their cooperation in making this event a success.

It will be held later in the month and will include the three Moffat County commissioners, three city councilors, three representatives of the newspaper and three readers/residents.

It will be held at a neutral site and be facilitated by a neutral moderator to ensure that one side does not dominate another and that the discussions move forward in a positive, constructive manner.

What we hope occurs is a more meaningful dialogue that we can use to establish more meaningful relations so we can serve residents and readers in a more meaningful manner. We hope this will improve the relationships between not only the newspaper and local government but between the local government entities as well.

There’s a saying that “in a vacuum of explanation, readers assume motive.” I believe you can take that statement and replace “readers” with “residents” or “voters.” We believe that this round table discussion can and will provide explanation in a vacuum where perhaps there was none. We hope we can count on your cooperation in what could be a powerful community tool.

“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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