Clark County Today Editor Ken Vance offers his perspective on the discussion hosted by the League of Women Voters of Clark County
Ken Vance, editor
Clark County Today
At an event held Thursday evening at the Vancouver Community Library, The League of Women Voters of Clark County hosted a public discussion by asking the question, “Does Local News Even Matter?’’
I am very happy that the hosts of the event invited Clark County Today to participate. I was unable to attend, but we were very well represented by reporter Paul Valencia. Paul was first trained as a journalist in the U.S. Army and has since spent his career in community news, including the past 23 years here in Clark County. Paul’s very extensive experience as a journalist made him abundantly qualified to participate in this discussion.
The 90-minute event was televised on Clark/Vancouver Television. The full broadcast can be viewed here. I watched most of the discussion live, and then watched it again the day after. I began my career as a journalist in 1987, some 36 years ago. So, naturally, I had opinions I would have liked to have shared in the discussion had I been able to attend. I will share with you a few of them in this space.
Clark County Today is addressing the issue
The premise of the discussion is that in the past decade or two, more newspapers have folded than we can count, including here in Washington state. In addition to that, the ones that have survived to this point have had to slash the number of reporters they employ because of ever-shrinking advertising revenue. In addition to that, the habits of readers have changed dramatically in terms of how they access news content and how dependent they are to receive that content.
Clark County Today exists because to our founder and staff members, local news matters a great deal. Our owner and founder David Madore has devoted a great deal of resources to gather a team of veteran Clark County journalists to provide area residents community news content that, in many instances, is not available anywhere else locally.
The Clark County Today mission is to provide free community news content. We never charge to view our content and we don’t require a subscription. Although we do offer content with commentary, we do not attempt to lead readers to a conclusion on important topics and we clearly label whether it is opinion or news. We don’t endorse political candidates and we don’t accept political advertising.
Clark County Today wasn’t created out of a need to just duplicate the content that other news organizations are providing. We often offer content that other local media outlets don’t provide. For example, during the pandemic, while the federal government, mainstream media, social media and Big Tech companies were colluding to provide a single narrative, Clark County Today had the courage to publish content about adverse effects of COVID vaccines as well as information on the effectiveness of those vaccines and other treatments. As we have learned more and more about COVID, we now know that the narrative that was being forced upon us just wasn’t entirely accurate.
Recent polls indicate that consumer confidence in the media is at an all-time low. I believe that is due in part to the fact that consumers don’t believe they are getting the whole story from the mainstream media. As a result, those consumers have turned to alternate sources for community news. We are blessed to be able to serve the community as one of those sources.
Who decides what is misinformation?
At many times during Thursday’s discussion, the panelists addressed the issue of misinformation, or “fake news.’’ I found this to be an interesting conversation. Panelist Len Reed, a professor at Washington State University Vancouver, shared an anecdote about the first assignment he gives students in each of his classes. Reed asks his students to write an essay, and without citing any sources, he challenges them to explain “by which metrics do you decide something to be true?’’
Reed shared that students often struggle to articulate an answer to that question. I’m not surprised. I think most readers of news content struggle with that question. I believe one of the reasons for that is that too many people try to tell readers what is misinformation, or what is factual and what is not. And those folks aren’t always correct in their assessment. In many cases it’s because they are biased.
For example, during the pandemic, our own federal government colluded with Big Tech and social media companies in an attempt to control the narrative. Any news organizations that published content in opposition of that narrative were censored. Media “watchdogs’’ were created, some supported by funding from the federal government, that assumed the role of judge and jury as to what was factual and what wasn’t. (I refuse to list them here, more than one was referenced during Thursday’s discussion.)
The bottom line is readers of community news shouldn’t depend on others to decide what is misinformation and what isn’t. They should make that determination themselves. I am proud that Clark County Today allows readers to do that. We present content and we are completely transparent about where that content came from, whether or not it is opinion or news, and the reader gets to decide how much credibility they assign to it.
Readers want to feel represented
Another panelist who participated in Thursday’s discussion was Regina Lawrence, the associate dean of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication in Portland and research director for the Agora Journalism Center. Lawrence stated that “people want from their local news the sense that they are actually represented. You want to feel they are really Invested in the community, the future of the community, that those reporters, those newsroom folks, are also citizens of the community with a stake in the future of that community.’’
This is another reason why I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished at Clark County Today. Each of our staff members have served the Clark County community as journalists for multiple decades. Our owner/founder cares so deeply about giving all Clark County residents a news source where their opinions and ideas are not censored, suppressed or canceled.
The battle, the fight to provide local news to our community is real. It is a challenge to create a news organization with enough staffing to adequately cover everything that the community needs to be covered. And, it’s becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to do it and turn a profit as an entirely private business. Fortunately, Clark County Today’s mission is not to make a profit. Our community news website was created seven years ago and still exists today because we recognize local news does matter and we want to provide free news content to everyone, including those members of our community who don’t feel represented by other outlets.
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