Many editors — myself included — believe in being an open book to the communities we serve. We are public figures. Transparency is a good thing.
The hosts at Coast Community Radio apparently believe that too. Joan Herman (“Perspectives”) and Donna Quinn (“Talk of Our Towns”) have interviewed me on the air recently about journalism and other topics. I was joined on Quinn’s show by Kari Borgen, who is my boss and the new publisher at The Daily Astorian.
They asked great questions. Here are some of the answers.
Both hosts were very curious about why Kari and I, who have decades of experience in journalism, chose to move to a small community like Astoria.
For me, it’s a homecoming of sorts. I was born at Hanford (insert “glow in the dark” jokes here), attended high school in Coulee Dam, graduated from Eastern Washington University and started my journalism career at small weekly newspapers in Stevenson and Lebanon. I served in the Oregon Army National Guard and brought my troops to train at Camp Rilea. My family frequently vacationed on the North Coast.
I left Oregon in 1990 and worked at news organizations in Pennsylvania, California, Washington, D.C., and Washington state. When the opening presented itself at The Daily Astorian last summer, I applied enthusiastically, without a moment’s hesitation. My name had been under consideration for other jobs back East, but my wife and I really wanted to stay in the Northwest. I had often dreamed, when I was a young reporter, that I’d like to work here. Now I’m the editor. Funny how life works out sometimes.
Kari has family roots in Eastern Oregon that go back five generations. She grew up in Baker City and after working at daily newspapers in Montana, Idaho and California had the opportunity to serve as the group publisher of the newspapers in her hometown and La Grande for many years. Like me, she desired a small-town lifestyle and always wanted to live on the coast. This is a great place to live and work.
Both of us believe strongly in community journalism. We enjoy the direct relationship with our readers that you don’t get in bigger cities.
The final factor for both of us was the opportunity to work for a family-owned company, the EO Media Group, which doesn’t believe in cutting its way to profitability and invests heavily in the 10 communities it serves in Oregon and Washington state.
What’s changed at the newspaper?
Steve Forrester and his successor, David Pero, both held the dual titles of editor and publisher. At most newspapers, those are two separate jobs. Now they are separate jobs at The Daily Astorian, as well.
Kari is the publisher, meaning she is responsible for all of the newspaper’s operations. She’s focused on the business side, growing revenue for the company and driving success for our advertising partners. We provide work for nearly 80 people when you include employees, contractors and freelancers.
As the editor, I report to Kari and lead the newsroom. I also manage the editorial page. Derrick DePledge has been promoted to managing editor as part of the reorganization.
Two of my goals are to increase our digital readership and to focus as much as we can on enterprise journalism. The latter means stepping back from the chaos of daily news and digging deep into issues that are important to our readers. Examples include the housing crisis, jobs, tourism, homelessness, natural resources and the environment.
We are open to your ideas about what’s important to you. I’ve only been here since August; Kari since December. Send us a note anytime at email@example.com.
What is real news?
The newspaper’s core values haven’t changed. First and foremost is that our news stories are professionally curated and sourced by talented reporters who care deeply about the integrity of their work.
I believe in the old saying, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” It may sound trite, but it’s a truism in this line of work. We are regularly harangued from all sides by people whose jobs depend on spinning the truth.
I’ve mentored hundreds of young journalism students over the years, and the first thing I tell them is to be prepared to be lied to on a daily basis. The second is that no matter what you write, every word will be filtered through the lens of a reader’s particular world view. We can’t do anything about that. All we can do is report as fairly and objectively as we can.
Even “objectively” seems to be a fungible concept among many people nowadays. Some major news organizations profess to practice so-called “advocacy” journalism on behalf of the left and the right. They believe that it’s OK to report with a point of view, as long as they’re transparent about what that point of view is.
I don’t subscribe to that concept. I’ve been a registered independent my entire life and have voted for both Republicans and Democrats. The Daily Astorian’s news reporting will be as impartial as it can possibly be in an impossibly polarized world.
That doesn’t mean we don’t have opinions. We have an editorial page, as most newspapers do. We express those opinions there and invite readers with different views to write letters to the editor (up to 250 words) and guest columns (up to 1,000 words). We ask only that the discourse be civil, without insults or name-calling. To pitch an idea for a guest column, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Listen to the interviews
Perspectives podcast: bit.ly/perspectives-jim
Talk of Our Towns podcast: bit.ly/jim-kari