Les Zaitz, editor and CEO, Salem Reporter (Photo by David Zaitz)
Last week was not a good week to keep up with news about my profession.
Headline after headline, tweet after tweet, told the same story: Local news is in trouble.
More layoffs. More consolidations. Less news.
Most of the news involves major news chains. I doubt many local readers are too worried that corporate owners aren’t getting as fat as they once did. And with the explosion of online sources, the loss of a news outlet or two might not seem like much.
But it does matter, and significantly.
The headline on one of the latest studies last week was: “Report shows local watchdog journalism faces a crisis moment.”
One of the key findings in the report:
“As local journalism declines, government officials conduct themselves with less integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness and corporate malfeasance goes unchecked. With the loss of local news, citizens are: less likely to vote, less politically informed, and less likely to run for office.”
Other studies found that local citizens think the press generally is doing fine financially. Shame on us in the profession who have glossed over the declines, too often claiming that eliminating a day of publication or combining two newspapers means better journalism. Nuts. That’s not true.
Less is less. Period.
As those reports and studies rolled out, I spotted a column written by a juror in a federal trial that last week convicted political operative Roger Stone of lying to Congress.
“Telling the truth under oath matters. At a time when so much of our public discourse is based on deception or just lies, it is more important than ever that we still have places where the truth can be presented, examined and discerned,” the juror wrote.
Here was a citizen recognizing something so fundamental: Truth matters.
While that was written in the context of the judicial process, the ideal applies to journalism as well. Where do you, as a reader, turn for truth that matters?
That pursuit of truth is what we at Salem Reporter work so hard to provide. My team of terrifically talented journalists – Rachel Alexander, Troy Brynelson, Saphara Harrell and Jake Thomas – is so determined to bring facts to light, to share stories of importance to Salem.
In years past, the presence of local media was easy to take for granted. No more.
In this era, it is vital that you be our partners. I want to be clear with the community that the future of Salem Reporter depends on you.
I had a reader drop me a note this week, extolling our accountability reporting – and asking for more. Indeed. Believe me, our team has a long list of reporting projects to get to, revealing things about Salem you aren’t likely to read about otherwise. We can do more if we have more. As our community support grows, you can trust we will invest in expanding our news team – not sending money back east to some corporate overlords who have never heard of Salem, Oregon.
We don’t intend to be one of those newsrooms that weaken or wink out. But don’t assume that we don’t need you. So, what can you do to be sure there is no crisis in watchdog journalism in Salem?
SHARE: We delight in how many of you are subscribers. Your loyalty and support get us cranked up every day. So, now share. Tell people you subscribe. Share stories that you particularly like or think people should see: “Read this!” (Are you following us on social media? Join us on Facebook and Twitter.)
SUBSCRIBE: Okay, you’ve been sampling us at no cost or skimming our headlines on social media. Sign up today. You can get your first three months for just $5 a month. Five bucks. And you know you’re supporting crucial watchdog journalism.
ADVERTISE: We put every nickel we have into gathering the news. That means we have no sales department, no account representatives. Still, Salem Reporter ought to be part of the marketing mix for local businesses. After all, people are reading Salem Reporter because they care about the community – and they will be attentive to those supporting local journalism.
DONATE: Yes, we’re a commercial enterprise, but we know there are people who want to support the best ideals of journalism. You can indeed donate, with every dollar used to support paid internships. With those internships, we can broaden our reach while imparting the highest ideals to the next generation of journalists who are needed to serve your needs.
I’m not asking you to fix all of journalism. I’m asking for your support for Salem Reporter to build an essential voice for the community. Together, we can be sure Salem gets access to information that holds public officials, organizations, and community leaders to account for what they do – year after year.
As always, thanks for your time.
Les Zaitz, CEO and editor