Editorial: Welcome, New Readers, to the City-Times
Left, a movie that could have easily been titled, “The Last Hard Men”. (20th Century Fox)
By Brandi Makuski
For those of you who follow us on Facebook, you’ll notice we don’t ask “How are you today?”, “What are you plans for this weekend?”, or “What’s your favorite food kiosk at Riverfront?”
On our regular website, you also won’t see any stories about eating healthy, gardening, weight- loss challenges or grocery giveaways.
There’s a very simple reason behind this: it’s not news.
Our version of the news is very different from the one daily news readers in Stevens Point have become accustomed to over the past several years. Our staff members grew up with a very romantic idea of the news profession- one that involves serving the public with news designed to educate the electorate as well as incite and support intelligent debate about our local government, community and education systems.
My vision of the newsroom comes largely from the era of Andy Rooney and Walter Cronkite; men who seemed to radiate with a sense of higher purpose in public service, constantly working to get real answers to their questions but never quite getting there in the ever-revolving cycle of news.
To coin legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow, “Anyone who isn’t confused doesn’t really understand the situation.”
Honest news journalism largely left the public focus thanks to Reality TV (a phrase I loathe having to treat like a proper noun), which turned whiny, backstabbing game show contestants into celebrities with endorsement deals and scores of pregnant 15 year-old girls into movie stars. Before this, news focused on topics which truly resonated in every household: taxes and the manner in which they were spent; major shifts in society; government relations and elections.
Are these topics as popular as Teen Mom 2, Justin Beiber’s latest hairstyle or the George Zimmerman trial? They should be.
But in 1982, a company called Gannett began publishing USA Today- a publication which forever changed mainstream media by becoming the first “McPaper”: one manufactured with simplistic prose style and flashy colors. The paper boils down to a slightly- more educated version of People Magazine, and it created a less- intuitive, less- curious electorate and has begun to cannibalize the smaller newspapers purchased by Gannett.
We prefer a different kind of news, focusing on events and topics popular a solid generation ago. The kind of news which holds elected officials accountable for their voting record, their actions and their words. The kind of news which closes the gap between citizens and those who sit on committees, commissions and boards that decide how to spend our tax dollars, build our roads, teach our children and otherwise represent our common interests.
We’ll also attempt to cover other news stories of value, including the local increase in homelessness, sexual assaults and illegal drugs, youth/ community sports, local business, catching up with high school graduates of note as well as sustainability/outdoorsmanship events because “hard news” is only valuable in the context of humanity.
This editorial is more than a misty, sentimental take on a more perfect news media. Our intent is noble but extremely simple: we ask you to expect more from your news. For that to happen, we need you to believe in us- to believe our news organization can succeed where so many before have failed you. We need you to believe there are choices in how our community moves forward and that wrongs can be corrected. We need you to believe neither political party is always right- or always wrong. We need you to believe you do have a voice in local government.
And we need you to use it.