Posts Tagged ‘newspapers’

Unhappy with ‘the media’? Then support real, good journalism

attack-the-media

Image courtesy of a news publication to which I subscribe.

Are you fed up with “the media” and all its liberal/conservative/insert-negative-adjective-based-on-your-personal-worldview bias? Are you utterly disturbed that Donald Trump may well be our next president because of people like this profiting off “fake news” sites? Or are you relieved Hillary wasn’t elected despite a constant barrage of “media bias in her favor”?

Then do something about it. Instead of simply complaining about “the media,” support real, good journalism, which is a cornerstone of any successful democracy.  Here are just a few suggestions on how to do that:

-Support a local newspaper or media organization, not just national orgs like NYT or WaPo, through a subscription. (After all, all national stories start out as local stories somewhere.)

-Be a responsible consumer/sharer. Always, ALWAYS check the sources of the story (both the website itself, and the people/organizations to which information in the story is attributed) before plastering it all over social media. If it’s not real, good journalism, don’t share it.

-Be aware of your own confirmation bias and question it whenever possible. Just because you don’t like a fact doesn’t mean it’s not true, and just because you agree with someone’s opinion doesn’t mean it’s a fact. I personally avoid sites like HuffPo because I know they have a liberal bent, and I would be tempted to just agree with what they publish without questioning it. It can be hard, but try not to only consume content that reaffirms your existing beliefs.

-Make consuming investigative journalism a priority. It takes longer than skimming a newsletter or Twitter or watching a two-minute segment on CNN, but you’ll have a much more nuanced understanding of the issue.

-In that same vein, I personally also avoid 24-hour cable news all together. The need to fill airtime, along with the use of soundbites and the constant punditry, is a disservice to journalism and the people it’s supposed to serve.

That’s just a handful of suggestions I came up with off the top of my head after a friend asked me on Facebook. I’m sure other journalists have more, and I certainly welcome those suggestions.

Because here’s the thing. Journalists, like you, are people doing their jobs. Also like you, they expect, and deserve, to be paid for doing that job. But when people consuming the service they provide expect to get that service for free instead of paying for a subscription, or use online ad blockers, or claim to be interested in investigative stories and “good” news, but actually only click on fluff and “bad” news instead, it stifles the sources of revenue needed to pay  journalists to do their jobs — and to do their jobs well. When revenues decline, the higher-ups employing these journalists order layoffs to keep the company somewhat profitable. The survivors are then expected to do more good journalism with fewer resources. This, of course, is a logical fallacy, so the quality of work produced by the organization declines, and even fewer consumers are likely to pay for what they perceive to be a sub-par service.

I’m sure you can see how this story ends.

You have the power to change that ending though. Support real, good journalism. Clearly, our democracy needs it more than ever.

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Things I will and will not miss about Great Falls

It is officially official: Zach landed a job at the firm he interned at in law school, so we will be moving back to our beloved Missoula in just a few months! (And possibly sooner for me, depending on my job prospects.)

I have been in love with Missoula since I started college there at the University of Montana more than 10 years ago. To me, it’s easily Montana’s best city. It embodies a perfect balance of progressive idealism and rugged individualism, and it’s never too far from your front door to the great outdoors, with a perfect view, to boot.

For most people who live here, this view is only a short drive and moderate hike away.

For most people who live here, this view is only a short drive and moderate hike away.

Though I’m excited that we are lucky enough to settle down in a place we genuinely love, I will also be sad to leave behind the life we’ve built in Great Falls. This town gets a bad rap; it’s definitely not the destination of choice for the younger set. It has a lot of potential, but many folks here may need an attitude adjustment before it can turn that corner.

There are a several aspects of Great Falls I will miss, and many I definitely won’t.

Things I will not miss about Great Falls

The obsession with chain restaurants. I have never seen an entire community get as excited as people here do when news breaks about a new chain restaurant coming to town. Seriously. When Buffalo Wild Wings announced its plan to open a restaurant in Great Falls, people lost it. Lost. It. It was by far  by FAR  the most-read story on our website for several days, and approximately 8 million people liked and shared the news on social media. Four gazillion people will probably go on its opening day, defying all mathematical probabilities in a town of 60,000 people.

However, this is not the best chain restaurant-related news Great Fallsians could receive. Nope. That would only happen if the Holy Grail of chain restaurants announced its impending arrival to town. That’s right: Olive Garden.

OK, Great Fallsians. Have you ever actually been to an Olive Garden? I know those people in their commercials look like they’re having a ton of fun while enjoying an authentic Italian meal  like they truly enjoy spending time with their families and don’t all secretly want to punch each other in the throats  but they are actors. Paid actors.

When real people like you and me go to Olive Garden, this is what happens: We get a shit ton of buttered and salted styrofoam disguised as breadsticks and a lump of chicken covered with Cheese Product that was still frozen until 5 minutes before it hit your plate. Meanwhile, your parents ask you for the millionth time when you’re going to get a boyfriend/girlfriend, when you’re going to get married to said boyfriend/girlfriend, when you’re going to reproduce a human child with said husband/wife instead of just schlepping around that damn dog/cat/gerbil with you everywhere you go, and then you snap back  “STOP ASKING SO MANY QUESTIONS!” Then everyone eats in silence for the rest of the meal, interrupted only with the occasional “Can you please pass me some more styrofoam breadsticks?”

Is that the kind of dining experience you’re hoping for at Olive Garden? I wouldn’t wish that scenario on my worst enemy (OK, I probably would. I’m vindictive sometimes.) Great Fallsians, please know that I mean this from the bottom of my squirrelly heart: You deserve better.

Also: You are never getting an Olive Garden. This is not a bad thing.

Missoula has its fair share of chain restaurants and big box stores, but it’s also a community that oozes support for local eateries and shops. When we want to go out to eat in Great Falls, it’s often a struggle to think of the limited options (my pescetarianism doesn’t help with that). In Missoula, we have the opposite problem: It can be hard to narrow down the choices, and when you choose one, you can’t help but wonder what you’re missing out on at another.

The drivers. As I’ve mentioned before, the drivers in Great Falls are not the most courteous. In addition to the fact that many couldn’t care less about whether they run down a little old lady walking across the street, there seems to be some sort of game going on in which drivers score points for how many red lights they can run, how many miles per hour over the speed limit they can go, and how many times they can turn or change lanes without signaling. Maybe I’m just jealous because no one ever invited me to play.

Obviously, this is a problem in just about any place. No one ever goes to a city and says “Wow, there are some really good drivers here!” In fact, I’ve previously written about how awful I think Missoula drivers are, so I’m not going to see much improvement on that front. But even if they are apparently physically prohibited from using a blinker, they will at least stop to let me run across the street.

The weather. Good God, the weather here is heinous. I know  it’s heinous in a lot of places, particularly in Montana. But Great Falls weather is the worst. Especially the wind. Always with that damn wind in Great Falls. You kind of stop noticing it after a while, but it’s always there, slowly wearing on you.

Of course, it’s especially terrible in the winter, when the chill of said wind makes the temperatures feel 15 to 25 degrees colder than they already are, resulting in conditions as low as 40 degrees BELOW zero. Do you know what it’s like to not be able to feel your face? Like, it’s so cold that you straight-up cannot confirm whether your face is still attached to your head? I do, because that’s what the wind does to you during the winter in Great Falls.

It’s probably the worst in the spring though. The temperature has finally started to creep above freezing, the sun is shining, and you glance out the window, expecting a lovely day. Then you walk outside and nearly get blown back in by a 40 mph gust of wind. And don’t even think of trying to have hair in Great Falls. It will probably just end up looking like this all the time:

Great Falls: Not a great place to have hair.

Great Falls: Not a great place to have hair.

And did you know it’s possible to suffer an injury caused by wind? Folks, it is. One time, I was leaving a store on a particularly windy day, and I opened my car door and was putting my purse down in the passenger seat before getting in. All of a sudden, a ginormous wind gust blew my door shut on me, knocking me over and causing me to hit my shin on the exposed car frame. I probably could have died, but I’m really brave so I made it.

The scar on my skin may fade, but will my soul ever truly heal?

 

Things I will miss about Great Falls

Sunshine in the winter. For all the shit I just talked about Great Falls’ weather, there is one thing I will miss about it: The sun, especially in the winter. Even when it’s the aforementioned 35 below zero, or during less extreme temperature drops, the sun is typically shining. Not so much during a Missoula winter. It may not get as cold, and it’s definitely not as windy, but daaaaamn, Missoula can get a girl down in the winter. It’s cloudy most of the time, and inversions often creep into the valley and stick around for days, sometimes weeks. It’s depressing as hell. It’s what made me believe that Seasonal Affective Disorder is real and not just a condition invented by pharmaceutical companies to sell drugs. If I ever OD on Vitamin D supplements, Missoula inversions are probably to blame. But the tradeoff — the fact that Missoula tends to see spring green sooner and fall foliage longer  is worth it.

The River’s Edge Trail. Great Falls has this amazing trail that meanders for miles and miles and miles and miles (seriously, it’s like 35 miles total) along the mighty Missouri River:

Photo by Larry Beckner, Great Falls Tribune

Photo by Larry Beckner, Great Falls Tribune

It’s absolutely perfect for avid runners like me. You can get in a lot of miles just on that trail, and I’m lucky enough to live just a few blocks away from accessing it (with only one pedestrian danger zone to cross to get there).

Now, the one downside of this trail is that in the summer, there’s a decent chance you could encounter the Prince of Darkness himself on it: Mr. Snake. And I’m not just talking about your garden-variety gardner snake (though those are around and freak me out, too). We’re talking the vilest of the vile here: The Rattlesnake. The ones that will gouge your leg in a venomous rage without a second thought, then call in his evil serpent brethren to drag you into their lair to finish you off.

Luckily, the snakes only slither around the eastern-most portions of the trail, so I can avoid their deathly embrace by turning around before I encroach on their territory. And, of course, I always keep my trusty Snake Rock with me, just in case.

My friends and co-workers. You’ve probably heard a saying along the lines of: “A place is only as good as the people you know in it. It’s the people that make the place.” That never rang true until I lived in Great Falls.

I don’t know that you will ever find a group of colleagues who have a better, and perhaps more twisted, sense of humor than those working together in a newsroom. Especially at a newspaper, which, let’s face it, is part of an industry that’s seen better days. We laugh as we recount the ridiculous comments and phone calls we get from people accusing us of instigating a conspiracy to implement Obamacare for Goats or asking that we run a correction because they believe Montana’s borders are wrong and we’re actually part of Canada (the second one actually happened). We have to laugh, through the good times and the bad, if only to keep ourselves from curling up into little balls and crying.

We also have a great group of friends here outside our work lives, and only partly because all the young people in Great Falls immediately discover they must band together if they want to survive. It’s tough to make friends after you set out into the real world, when you don’t necessarily have the comfort and convenience of instantly bonding with people you share the same class/team/dorm/
sorority/college newspaper office with. But with our friends in Great Falls, we hit the jackpot.

(Shhhh, secret time: I’m subtlety bombarding them all with subliminal messages convincing them to move to Missoula, too.)

That “je ne sais quoi.” For all the things I clearly will not miss, there is something about Great Falls, something I still can’t quite put my finger on after four years of living here, that has made me like it, despite feeling like I shouldn’t. To borrow a term from a fancy French owl, Great Falls just has a certain “je ne sais quoi” for me.

Perhaps it’s the people I’ve known here. Or maybe all that sunshine. I don’t know what it is, exactly  only that I’ll miss it when I’m gone.

I demand a correction!

We were going through some old photo albums at my grandma’s house this weekend, and I came across this clipping from the publication for which I currently happen to work:

Correction

Yep, that second graf is a blurb announcing the birth of yours truly in the June 13, 1985, edition of the Great Falls Tribune, two weeks after I was born. Pretty cool, huh?

That’s what I thought, too, until I noticed … the error.

OK, “error” is not exactly accurate. It’s really just a typo. A typo made back in the day when reporters still click-clacked away on an old-timey machine called a “typewriter” and could not even imagine the simple convenience of hitting the backspace key to erase an error. During the era when they measured copy with pica poles and laid out the paper using “paste ups.” Whatever that means. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Check facts. They may have used computers by the ’80s … In which case, UNACCEPTABLE!)

But the irony of a proper grammar/spelling/punctuation enthusiast finding a typo more than 28 years later in her own birth announcement — published in the very paper for which she works, where she started her journalism career as a copy editor — was not lost on me.

So this morning, I strolled into the morning news meeting with other editors and reporters, slapped the clip down on the table in front of the city editor and demanded a correction. Of course, not everyone is cut out to be a copy editor, so I mainly received puzzled looks at first regarding the “error” I wanted corrected.

“Do I look like somebody’s DAUG-ter to you people?!?!?” I bellowed. “DO I?”

Most people caught on at this point, and we all had a good laugh. I was then reminded that we run corrections for factual errors, not typos. (Because let’s face it, with shrinking staffs and newshole, there’s simply not enough room to publish corrections for all the typos papers make these days … ba-du-dum-ching!)

I figured I’d give it a shot though. Maybe I’ll even write the correction myself and try to slip it in. I owe it to all the remaining copy editors out there to try, at least.

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