There's no doubt that here at the Source Weekly, we believe local news is important. It's been our mission since we opened our doors in 1997, and it's the ship we man every week in our print and digital publications. And because we understand journalism that watchdogs local governments, agencies and business is good for the people who live in a community, we welcome EO Media's pending purchase of The Bulletin and the Redmond Spokesman, decided upon at auction this week.
In a community that continues to experience explosive growth, the public deserves more watchdogs, not fewer.While they've been a competitor during all of our 23 years in business, we have watched The Bulletin's decline in readership and revenue—and its multiple bankruptcy proceedings—with anguish, knowing what it meant for readers and the overall news ecosystem. We may not agree with its editorial board's positions on many issues, but we do believe that having multiple publications offering differing takes on local issues is a service to the community.
Up until now, we have opted not to weigh in on the bankruptcies or the pending sale on this page—or on our news pages—because we felt that outlining the paper's decline would only read like sour grapes, coming from a direct competitor. But in the interest of preserving and upholding the values of journalism and local coverage, we felt that now is the time to make a statement.
We don't envy EO Media for the financial and editorial adjustments it's going to have to make to right the sinking ship that is Bend's daily newspaper—but we don't believe making a commitment to local news is among the biggest challenges the paper will face. A comment from chairwoman Betsy McCool in The Bulletin's Tuesday print edition stated, "Investing in local news is one of the reasons Western Communications ended up in bankruptcy."
Investing in local news is not a death sentence. Local news, as our own success has shown, can be the porch light in an otherwise dark night. It's something the large corporate chains can't offer, diving in from their desks far away, and it's what locals are craving—that, and the ability to see that the people behind the paper they hold in their hands are members of the community, who clearly understand the community's values and are ready to reflect those on the page. It was a mistake for The Bulletin's Editor, Erik Lukens, to state in a Feb. 10 opinion piece that he had "absolutely no idea how well the views expressed by The Bulletin's editorials match up with those of most Central Oregonians."
Editorials and opinion pages can be nay-saying, and can offer an alternative perspective to prevailing wisdom—but those opinions should at least be informed by the views of the community where the opinions are being published. Quality local journalism starts with understanding your community and being willing to engage with it as both citizen and journalist.
EO Media should take this time, before the sale is final later in August, to reflect on how they can be both a watchdog and a voice that is reflective of this community. It was a crucial step for them to confirm with us, their colleagues and fellow watchdogs, that its group of local investors will be identified in any coverage that involves those financiers, and that those financiers would not have an editorial stake in the papers. If The Bend Foundation is covered in those papers, for example, The Bulletin and the Spokesman aim to disclose that the Foundation financially supports the papers.
We hold ourselves to that standard, too. When covering events by our (locally, family-owned) parent company, Lay It Out Inc, we state that relationship.
As journalists, we look forward to seeing the advent of a thriving daily newspaper that commits itself to serving the community with transparency, ethical business practices and quality reporting. As community members, we know that's what all of us deserve.