Our New Year’s resolution: Upping the ante on accountability
Hands down, my favorite television show of all-time is The Wire, which is, amazingly, re-airing on HBO starting the day after Christmas, completely remastered and in HD. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend getting on board.
This show is a gritty, in-your-face, visceral masterpiece about the many blue- and white-collar worlds of Baltimore. It develops characters better than any TV show you will ever see, and it pulls no punches. Some of your favorite characters will succeed — and so, too, will the dirtbags.
While it’s hard for me to choose a favorite season, most journalists fond of the show will opt for the fifth and final in 2008, which juxtaposes The Wire’s mainstay plots and characters against a backdrop of city news coverage from the Baltimore Sun as the paper begins to stomach an era of layoffs and buyouts.
“It’s a bad time for newspapers … the news hole is shrinking as advertising dollars continue to decline,” the paper’s executive editor tells a glum staff in the season’s third episode. “Our circulation numbers are also down as we compete with a variety of media. Technology is driving distribution, and the Internet is a free source of news and opinions.
“Seeking a balance in this new world, we’re now faced with hard choices.”
Fellow newspeople throughout Truckee-Tahoe, and really, anywhere, reading this quote are probably nodding a bit grimly, recalling his or her own experience in a similar newsroom meeting a handful of years ago when the same speeches were uttered by the corporate powers that be.
It’s no secret newspapers have gone through a lot of change over the past decade, something I’ve written about in this space before, and the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza are no different.
We’ve diminished the size of our print editions and the frequency of their publication dates, among other changes. And with those changes came cutbacks, naturally — but also, an inspired focus within the industry to “do more with less.”
It hasn’t been easy, and anyone who says otherwise, well, more power to him or her, I guess. But, we have persevered, and our editorial staff has been working very hard behind the scenes to make improvements not only to the content we offer readers, but also in the way we deliver it.
So as we look toward a new year, I’m pleased to report the following changes that you will see in the very near future:
1. Staff editorials will return in print on Fridays in the Sun and each Thursday in the Bonanza, and online the day prior. It has been several years since we’ve published regular editorials. Simply put, it is our job as a newspaper to evaluate issues that are important for readers and offer our opinion on certain matters, regardless if it is popular or not. Making our voice heard — whether in the form of cheers or jeers — is one of the greatest hallmarks of a free press and the First Amendment.
2. More investigative journalism. In an ideal world, we’d be hard-hitting all our public agencies and investigating everything under the sun and reporting our findings in every edition. While that’s not really possible, what we will be doing more in 2015 is providing deeper reports that focus on how taxpayer dollars are spent, and on our Tahoe environment and how development may impact its future. We’ve already begun this endeavor with our cover story in October on questionable California land appraisals, and November’s “Show me the money” report on public salaries. And more is coming.
3. Increased digital offerings. Just this week, we re-branded our Facebook page with a new logo and name — “Sierra Sun-North Lake Tahoe Bonanza” — in order to embrace the value and uniqueness that both papers offer, and we have recently increased the amount of content we share and post on our biggest social page. If you haven’t liked us yet on Facebook, I really encourage you to do so, as it’s a really beneficial (and, at times, fun) way to follow our news.
There are other changes in the works, of course, but these three will definitely be the biggest and most important. As always, your feedback on these changes — or really, on anything we do to provide news in Truckee and North Lake Tahoe — is very much encouraged.
As we grow these offerings in a responsible journalistic way and begin reporting more hard news and sharing our opinion on controversial topics, I’ve no doubt that from time to time we will make some people, agencies or organizations unhappy. But the way I see it, if we’re not ruffling some feathers (again, responsibly) every now and then, then we’re not truly doing our job.
As Omar Little, one of The Wire’s most-liked characters, says, it’s “all in the game.”
Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. Reach him for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.