It’s more or less that time of year again when I remind myself, and our readers, advertisers and employees, of why I got into the newspaper ownership business nearly 12 years ago.
It wasn’t with the expectation of getting rich (I didn’t), or serving my ego (a foolhardy notion), or becoming what these days they call an “influencer” (who would listen?). I needed something to do, for one thing, and the opportunity was there. It was a scary, disruptive and uncertain venture. I had few intentions other than to keep the newspaper going and honor its legacy. In retrospect, I’d have to say that I had no idea what I didn’t know. Which is probably for the best. I often tell people that if I thought of this as a job, I wouldn’t do it. Or, for folks who envy where I live and work, I assure them that while yes, I live the dream, I also work the reality. Anyone who has been here for very long understands that.
Before I purchased the Methow Valley News in 2011, I put myself through an exercise to define how I intended to approach something I knew a lot about (journalism) and almost nothing about (running a business). Any workshop on starting or buying a business will strongly advise that you do the same. To that end, I came up with a mission statement and vision statement that I intended to guide the newspaper’s operations and establish its commitment to this community. I reprint these statements every year as a reminder of those commitments, and as a standard against which to measure how I think we’re doing. So here they are again, unaltered from the original.
MVN Publishing will produce high-quality, reliable and practical print and online news and information products, including the Methow Valley News, related special publications and www.methowvalleynews.com, to fully inform not only valley residents but also readers and online users outside the area who have an interest the valley’s success and well-being.
• We will report on, participate in and celebrate the unique community of the Methow Valley with accuracy, integrity and civility, and be as transparent as possible about our operations and how we report the news.
• We will consistently provide high-quality, locally intensive journalism that serves the community by effectively telling the valley’s stories; building connections that help the valley’s residents make decisions about living, working, recreating and participating here; fostering involved citizenship that encourages a meaningful, productive civic life; and celebrating what is good and promising about the Methow Valley’s people, its environment and its future. We will use all available means to meet the valley’s information needs, including social networking tools to keep people stay current day in and day out. We will vigorously support and educate residents about open meetings and public access laws.
• We will be a force for effective communications that make a difference in the community’s well-being. We will define “local” not by geography but by what is important in residents’ lives and by exploring how those issues and events affect them. When appropriate, we will use the long-form narrative story-telling approach for issues, profiles and community character articles. We will reach beyond the valley with the power of what we do by setting standards for rural community journalism and being part of the redefinition of what it means to practice responsible journalism in this kind of setting.
• We will be a responsible employer and will operate a successful business that helps provide livelihoods for local residents by being innovative and flexible to create opportunities for growth. We will lay a long-lasting foundation for local journalism in the valley. We will become participants in, not just observers of, the greater community and its various interests and forces for change.
Each time I revisit those words, it’s like I’m reading them for the first time — and simultaneously from the perspective of hard-won experience. I think they have held up pretty well. Maybe they sound like high-falootin’ rhetoric. To me they are practical, hands-on goals that are within our ability to reach — and which we will never lose sight of.