Aubrey Wieber of Salem Reporter. (Salem Reporter/file)
When I started at Salem Reporter, I was confused and disheartened with journalism.
The declining financial condition of the profession had left me unemployed. As I was planning my next step, I often thought about the growing, anti-journalism sentiment in this country. Everywhere I looked, people were pointing and shouting “fake news.”
As a journalist, I could stomach going against government officials and others in power because I was doing it for the people. I had sold myself on empowering the common person with information.
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But then I looked at places like the New York Times falling under attack for writing difficult political stories. At the same time their reporters were uncovering years of sexual assault by Hollywood’s Harvey Weinstein, people bought into the “fake news” mantra being touted by political leaders. Polls showed a growing distrust of the Fourth Estate.
These reporters, I thought, were heroes. Yet, American society was standing up and saying “we don’t want you.”
I started to wonder whether news outlets were forcing something on the public that it didn’t want, or if I was inflating my profession as a result of arrogance.
During this haze of introspection, I took a job at Salem Reporter.
With a new media company, I thought I had a chance to make my own reputation as a reporter in the community in a way I never could at a 100-year-old newspaper. It was a fresh slate where I could be innovative.
Thankfully, I was correct. Over the past year, I have been praised and beaten down by Republicans, Democrats, Independents and those turned off by all parties. I’ve been told people like Salem Reporter because we play it straight.
People of all walks appreciated investigative reporting showing how industry worked lawmakers to kill an environmental bill or information on the health of their secretary of state.
In addition to serving the readers, these stories pushed me as a reporter to work harder, ask more questions, follow money trails and dig deeper for the truth.
I found that the newspaper editors who told me for years that readers won’t read anything over 500 words were wrong. Our subscribers at Salem Reporter appreciated the depth and context in our stories.
All this is to say my faith in journalism and my passion for being a journalist is higher than it’s ever been.
Legacy media might be taking a continual beating — the recent Gannett and GateHouse merger is disheartening, to say the least. But as I look across the country I see veteran print journalists finding a new way to deliver news to readers.
In this new model, we can be adaptable and experiment. We can more easily respond to readers’ concerns and desires. Some of these new outlets are grant funded, and others are by subscription, but all rely on community support.
So I ask that you, as a reader, endure some reflection as I did a year ago.
When you dislike a news story, consider why. Was it bias or inaccuracy, or did the facts in the story just not align with your viewpoint? If it’s the latter, read the story again and appreciate the challenge it presents.
Find a news outlet that challenges you like that on a regular basis, or makes you an informed voter or get active in your community. Then, subscribe to that organization.
Aubrey Wieber is the state government reporter for Salem Reporter, joining the outfit from the start after laid off by the Salt Lake Tribune.