We hear stuff all the time.
We encourage it. That’s because we’re in the hearing stuff business, and we’re in a small community, and people are as thirsty for knowledge here as they are anywhere else. We take calls, talk to people in the coffee shop or market, exchange emails, occasionally get an actual letter in the mail. We take it all in, and pay attention to local bulletin boards and information exchange sites, and filter and sift and sometimes track things down, because there may be something we can use, or that we don’t know about, or that we should know more about.
What we don’t do is just toss it out there for general consumption.
So we may be accused of hiding things or being ignorant or covering someone’s rear end because we don’t print what “everyone knows.”
After more than 40 years in the news business, here’s what I think “everyone knows” is worth: Zip. Nada. Zilch. Bupkus. Doodly squat.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the community consensus is entirely wrong. It means that until we do our jobs and process the information, it won’t appear in our news pages, or on our Facebook page or website.
I know I’m being repetitive about our insistence that what we print must be based on official sources, eyewitness or participant accounts, public documents or observations by people who are knowledgeable and authoritative. In the interests of complete coverage — and by that I don’t mean false-equivalency “balance” — we may quote people whose credibility is suspect. In that case, we try to provide factual context.
That little Journalism 101 lesson came to mind again in the past week because of a few things we’ve been hearing.
We hear that many people know how the recent fire in the Rendezvous started. They may be right. But until we get an investigative report, we’re not going to join that speculation.
We hear that some people think faster response by firefighters could have saved the house that burned down in Twisp last week. I was an eyewitness for that one, arriving not long after the fire started, and what I saw — and have photos to illustrate — was smoke and flames pouring out of every blown-out door and window in the place. I’ve covered a lot of structure fires in my career, and in my opinion the house wasn’t savable in any realistic sense.
We hear that some people think the old livery stable next to The Merc Playhouse could have and should have been saved. There was even talk of a fundraising effort.
Save your money for the campaign to replace the Wagner Memorial Pool, which will really need it. I stopped by the old barn this week and asked the de-construction crew to point out to me where the structure was compromised, which they readily did. It was a collapse waiting to happen. My opinion, again: The best that could have been hoped for by renovating the building would be to produce, for a lot of money, a slightly nicer barn. But still a barn. As it is, the lumber that would have been lost had the combustible old place gone up in flames is instead being salvaged for re-use.
I don’t mean to discourage people from telling us things. Just know that anything we hear will be subject to examination. There’s an old saying in our business: If your mother says she loves you, check it out.
There are a couple of things we’d like you to hear, for real, about our regular offerings — both related to columns.
Mazama columnist Erika Kar will shortly be departing with her family for a year in Mexico, which is not an ideal spot from which to write a local column. We are contemplating ways to fill the position while she’s gone, and will be soliciting ideas.
This week, we are introducing a recurring column called “Light Matters,” by Howard Johnson. Howie is a member of the Methow Dark Sky Coalition that is working to limit light pollution in the valley (see story, page A1). His column will not overlap with David Ward’s “Naked Eye” column, which is all about how to take best advantage of our dark skies.
Whatever you want me to hear, you can accomplish it by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.