Are some perceptions rooted in reality?
It was just a few weeks after we launched ClarkCountyToday.com in September 2016. I assigned a story to one of our reporters at that time and suggested the first contact to be made as a source for the story.
Our reporter reached out to that contact, someone who both the reporter and I had interacted with many times prior to the launch of ClarkCountyToday.com. This source is someone I don’t see eye-to-eye with on all matters, and we don’t often land on the same side of the ideological spectrum, but they are someone who I have a great deal of respect for.
Our venture was so new at the time, that we had very little evidence of what our news website was going to become. That lack of a tenure obviously left folks in Clark County free to draw their own conclusions based on their own perceptions.
What did they know? They knew I was the editor. I presume they knew I had handpicked the staff. They knew from my years writing editorials in The Reflector Newspaper that I held a fairly conservative ideology on most issues. They also knew our project was founded by David Madore, a well-known Clark County conservative.
So, this source that our reporter contacted in those early weeks informed us that they would not be comfortable working with us on a story until they could assess our performance over a period of time. They wanted to be sure that our motive was to be fair and objective. I responded to the source and said that I understood and that I was confident that our performance would prove us to be worthy of their cooperation as a source at a later date.
We let a few months go by and the same reporter reached back out to the source to see if they would now be willing to work with us on the story we wanted to report on. The source said they had been monitoring our performance and they were now comfortable working with us. I’m not going to presume the reasons why, or report things that the source said to me privately, but I think the decision speaks for itself.
This is my way of addressing the elephant in the room. What type of a news organization is ClarkCountyToday.com?
You might remember, in April we had a bit of a dustup with Sen. Ann Rivers. I’m not going to reopen it, but if you missed it you can read about it here:
If you sort through the back-and-forth involved in that discussion, you will see that it was initially fueled by a blog entry posted by Reporter Jake Thomas of The Columbian Newspaper. You can read Thomas’ entry here:
I essentially didn’t have any problem with what Thomas reported or the fact that he, admittedly, sought out the senator’s reaction to our performance. And, when I responded with the above-referenced editorial providing all the video evidence that our performance didn’t warrant Rivers’ accusations, Thomas tweeted it out. He didn’t have to do that. It was a classy thing to do in this industry.
But, there was one element of his original blog post that I wasn’t a fan of. He never mentioned our news organization by its name. Instead, he referred to it as “a website founded by former Republican County Councilor David Madore.’’ Later, a second reference called our venture “Madore’s site.’’ I get it, Madore has long been a polarizing person in Clark County. There are those who love him and those who don’t. But, it was disrespectful, petty and unprofessional not to refer to us by the name of our organization in any of the references. And, I greatly appreciated the fact that his later tweet did reference us by name, or at least our initials (CCT).
But, that wasn’t the most egregious of Thomas’ references in his blog post. Another reference to ClarkCountyToday.com was that we were one of “two local conservative websites’’ that Rivers was accusing of reporting “fake news’’ from her April town hall in Battle Ground.
ClarkCountyToday.com is a conservative website? I’m the editor. My fingers touch every piece of content that is posted on our website. I am involved in every decision and element of our operation. No one, Madore included, has ever told me that we are “a conservative website.’’
I worked for 14 years as a journalist at The Columbian Newspaper. I worked for almost 10 years as a journalist at The Reflector Newspaper. I am approaching my job exactly the same way at ClarkCountyToday.com that I did at those news organizations. Covering local news is covering local news. I was Madore’s first hire when we launched this project. I was never told to create “Fox News Clark County.’’ I was told to provide Clark County residents with the news and information they want and need to live their lives and the way to do that was to “follow the truth.’’
I was also told an important part of my job was to write editorials. But, in nearly two years, I’ve never been told what to write in those editorials. I’ve never been censored in any way.
Now, with all that said, I acknowledge to you that not everyone in Clark County has come around as that earlier-referenced source did. Some people decided immediately what type of a news organization we were going to be and have never given us a chance. Others are so blinded by fury or hate, they will never give us a fair evaluation.
Also, there are elected officials and community leaders who will not grant us interviews or interact with us because of their own inaccurate perceptions. There’s nothing we can do about that. For example, we are in the process of contacting all candidates for the prominent elected positions involved in the upcoming election. Some of those have already turned down our requests for interviews. Others, like Sen. Rivers, never gave us a chance from Day 1 and never will. That’s their choice.
I sleep very well at night knowing there are plenty of folks in Clark County who don’t agree with me, or my boss for that matter, on many ideological issues. Some of my closest friends have views that are 180 degrees opposed to mine. And yet, we get along just fine. And the majority of my liberal friends love ClarkCountyToday.com because they respected me enough to give it an objective try.
Myself and members of my staff have often been asked what it’s like to work in this industry for Madore. “Does he tell you what to write?’’ Truth is always a lot less sexy than fiction. I get to sit down with David no more than once a week. Often it’s two or three times a month. There’s business we always need to discuss but content almost never comes up in the conversation. And, on the rare occasion it does, he will politely answer my questions with his thoughts followed by, “that’s your job.’’ He always asks the same thing, ‘’what can I do to support you?’’ And, he always praises and thanks me and our staff for our contribution to the effort.
Will my editorials continue to largely reflect a conservative ideology? Yes. That’s because that’s who I am and I’ve been this way since long before I came to work here. (Believe me, my former co-workers at The Columbian loved my outspoken conservative views.) Will commenters on our stories, website and social media be more from conservatives than liberals? Likely, even though I have never blocked a single commenter or comment based on ideology. I’ve even allowed some pretty sharp criticism of our performance and myself in particular.
I realize that there’s roughly one-third of the population that will never give us a chance. And, there’s roughly one-third of the population who think we can essentially do no wrong. It’s the other one-third who have open minds that I work for. And, I can honestly say, like the source mentioned early in this editorial, we’re doing just fine with those folks.
So, ClarkCountyToday.com is not a conservative website. We are an independent news organization that attempts to report the truth and the news that Clark County residents thirst for. If anyone says anything different, that’s their own inaccurate perception.