Wick Communications

Honoring The Standard

In journalism on 17 May 2012 at 6:04 pm

Green Valley News Editor Dan Shearer pointed me toward this report on one beloved weekly newspaper, one that the town of Silverton, Colo., just would not let die.

The Silverton Standard has been something of a media darling for the last couple of years. A documentarian named Sonya Doctorian first reported the story. (You should really take a couple moments and watch her video.) Former Rocky Mountain News Editor John Temple mentioned it shortly thereafter. And this week, the Today Show ran the taped segment highlighting the Standard’s success.

The short story is this: Editor Mike Esper knew the newspaper’s old owner was thinking about shutting it down. He asked the San Juan County Historical Association to buy it, and the town’s history-minded folk saw the rationale. As Esper told NBC correspondent Bob Dotson, “History and news are really the same thing. It’s just a matter of what time it is.”

I was struck by the way the people of Silverton felt about their newspaper. They don’t seem to be demanding any more than Esper can deliver: The truth. And to be sure, that truth includes the stories of good people doing good things as well as a little light on government and business happenings. …

“It’s how we keep a free society,” said Beverly Rich, the chairwoman of the historical society, in Dotson’s piece. “We keep a free society because of scrutiny and that is the newspaper’s job.”

Why would a community care so much about its newspaper? Why would a guy like Esper make it his life’s labor of love? The answer is that it is more than a newspaper, and more than a job.

The Silverton Standard is what we all aspire to be: an essential part of the community it serves. It isn’t a business. It’s the soul of the town. It helps to engage citizens and the citizens, in turn, grasp the import of the endeavor.

I found the story of the Silverton Standard inspiring. Take a moment and watch the videos and see if they don’t leave you feeling the same way.

Oh, and fear not for the fortunes of The Silverton Standard. What’s white, well read and in the black? Why, The Standard.

“The newspaper made $236 profit last year,” Esper told Dotson, who chuckled at such a paltry sum. “Hey, that’s more money than a lot of metro newspapers made. Don’t sneeze at that.”

Clay

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