There’s a thread going about right now on social media, claiming this newspaper has, in effect, abandoned its job of being the chronicle of our community.
The idea there’s no local news in The Lusk Herald is being put forth, in part as a justification to not support the local paper. People are claiming all there is in the newspaper is stories from outside Lusk and Niobrara County, and no one cares what happens in Torrington or elsewhere in the Cowboy State.
As editor of this publication, I have to take exception to that. Our job is – and has always been – to report on the goings on in the communities we serve and we have a cadre of reporters who do just that.
True, in recent weeks, there may have been the occasional story of a more regional nature, dealing with issues in the farming and ranching community, things groups in Cheyenne or Casper or elsewhere are doing to help families in this unusual day and age. We’ve reported on the goings on of the Eastern Wyoming College Board of Trustees.
You might think you don’t care what’s happening at EWC in Torrington, that it only affects people in Goshen County. But look at a map of the EWC service area – the college is supported as much by Niobrara County property taxes as it is by those paid in Goshen County.
There’s also been the odd report from somewhere else in the state that, though it happened in Riverton, Jackson, Thermopolis or any of the other communities in this state, could have long-reaching effects on lives and livelihoods across Wyoming.
It also ignores the work of Lusk Herald reporters, reaching out into the community daily to tell the stories of those same lives.
This issue of The Herald features stories about Niobrara County Extension Service 4-H Fridays, offering online programs for youth during the novel coronavirus shutdowns. There’s a feature on the local Subway restaurant giving away free cookies to Niobrara County School District staff, students and their parents. There’s also a report on the resignations of the CEO, COO and Chief Nursing Officer at Niobrara County Hospital.
And that’s just a handful of the scores of stories, researched, reported and written by Lusk Herald reporters, just since the first of this year. To say there’s no local news is patently false.
To look further, in recent weeks, The Herald has reported on a local family who’s taken it on themselves to sew and distribute masks for health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight. Our reporters informed the public of the first confirmed case of novel coronavirus infection in the county.
We report regularly on the activities of the Lusk City Council and NCSD Board of Trustees, activities with a direct impact on the lives and education of residents in the community. And that on top of weekly features, including the News and Views column by long-time Lusk resident Phyllis Hahn; regular reports from the Niobrara County Library, which includes information on activities and new books; and the Peeks at the Past, a walk down memory lane and snapshot into the history of the community.
For that, on top of everything else, is what local newspapers are all about. Sure, it’s our job to inform the public what everyone from their elected officials to their neighbors down the street are doing – that’s an important part of our job. But we are also the chronicle and repository of the past for our local community.
Social media can’t – and doesn’t – provide that archive of our history. Try to find something you saw even five minutes ago on Facebook – it’s virtually impossible. A computer algorithm somewhere that’s definitely not eastern Wyoming has decided, arbitrarily, that you don’t need to see that right now. Instead, here’s the latest on the goings on in Washington or New York or California, often biased in one direction or another on the political spectrum.
For that’s one of the biggest problems with social media today – bias. Whether you love or hate the current administration, social media provides a platform with little if any oversight. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection – or even just a smartphone – can spew anything that’s in their minds without confirmation, fact checking or even remote relationship to reality.
Professional journalists – including the individuals who report daily for The Lusk Herald – have far more oversight than that. It’s drummed into fresh-faced journalism students virtually on their first day in school – tell both sides of the story. Get the facts and present them as impartially as is humanly possible and let your readers make their own decisions.
Letting readers make their own decisions also isn’t one of the precepts of social media, where there are more than enough people posting many varieties of vitriol, ready and willing to tell others what to think, how to react. Even the much-maligned “main stream media” – with a few notable exceptions – can be and often are guilty of that.
But The Lusk Herald definitely doesn’t fall under that description. And I’m not going to insult your intelligence by claiming we’re always right, because we’re not. Believe me, when we get it wrong, you all know about it – we get it wrong in black-and-white, sometimes in big, block letters, that are printed and archived for history.
The difference is, when we get it wrong, we endeavor as best we can to correct our mistakes, as quickly as we can, as soon as it’s brought to our attention. Again, that contrasts to social media posters who, despite being bombarded by posts pointing out their misinformation or outright lie, usually double down on their wrong statements.
Rather than saying, “Oh, I guess I missed the mark on that one,” the typical response of a social media mouth when called to the carpet is to turn to insults, to question the parentage of the person challenging them, or almost anything else rather than admit they got it wrong. And it propagates – social media is filled with posts of posts of posts, spreading the misinformation around the country and around the world.
Saying “the news” only comes from social media is like saying “food comes from the grocery store.” It ignores the farmer and rancher who grows the food, the factory that processes the food and the truck driver who hauls the finished product to that store.
And to say, “There’s no local news in The Lusk Herald” only says one thing – you’re not reading the paper, or you’d see just how much local news there is.