Talking about a revolution

  • Greg Hanscom

 

For 33 years, High Country News has built its reputation on giving people news about the West’s environment. At times, it’s been a lonely business. Betsy Marston, who served as the paper’s editor from 1983 to 2001, says that in the 1980s, HCN was one of the only newspapers that consistently covered issues affecting the West’s public lands — which make up half of this million-square-mile region. “We weren’t alone,” she says. “The LA Times was good in the ’80s. But the local papers missed the stories.”

These days, papers such as The Oregonian, The Idaho Statesman, The Durango Herald and the Arizona Daily Sun understand the importance of covering the environment. They know that it’s perhaps the most important story in a region where the land, both public and private, is under unprecedented pressure from suburban sprawl, oil and gas drilling, hordes of recreationists and a host of other assaults. They know that without solid information, Westerners will be hard-pressed to make informed decisions about what we want this region to become.

So these days, High Country News has some good company, but not very much, according to a recent review of the West’s daily newspapers. By and large, these papers miss “the big story” of growth and the environment, according to Matching the Scenery: Journalism’s Duty to the North American West, compiled by the Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources in Missoula, Mont.

As HCN Editor in the Field Ray Ring notes in this issue’s cover story, Journalism’s Duty sheds light on a lack of environmental coverage that many readers of HCN have been painfully aware of for a long time. The report also suggests some remedies, which boil down to this: Newspapers need to put more resources into good journalism, rather than just padding the pockets of corporate bigwigs and stockholders.

While the report may serve as reality check, a real revolution in the newsrooms will require more from all of us. If we want to see less sensational junk, and more stories about the important issues, we need to make that known. After all, we’re the ones who drive the bottom lines for these operations, and we’re the ones who suffer when shoddy journalism only deepens divisiveness and makes our problems worse.

Letters to the editor certainly help, but the situation calls for more. Why not form reader advocate groups, to pressure newspapers to cover “the big story,” and to fulfill their responsibility to the public? Meet with publishers and editors. Boycott papers that continue to miss the mark. Picket the newsrooms. (The TV stations would love to cover that!) Put up billboards pointing out that the papers are falling down on the job.

Here we sit, in the middle of one of the biggest environmental stories going — the unraveling of the landscape that Wallace Stegner once called “the native home of hope.” Don’t you think we have a right to know about it?

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at [email protected].

High Country News Classifieds
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks a friendly, detail-oriented, and self-motivated Development Coordinator to provide administrative support to the Development department. This position will report to...
  • FIELD ORGANIZER, MONTANA
    Help Northern Plains Resource Council protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Work hard, meet good people, make the...
  • FOR SALE
    Successful llama trekking business with Yellowstone National Park concession for sale! A fun and enriching business opportunity of a lifetime! Call 406-580-5954
  • ALBUQUERQUE VACATION HOME
    Centrally located. One bed, one bath, lovely outdoor patio, well-stocked kitchen.
  • NEW AGRARIAN PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Quivira (www.quiviracoaltion.org), a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that aims to shift current practices of agriculture and land stewardship to those that produce good food, support meaningful...
  • SPECTACULAR SCENIC MOUNTAIN VIEW HOME BUILDING SITE
    Located on top of Sugarloaf Mtn. 5 mi W of downtown Colorado Springs, CO. $80,000.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    opportunity in Eugene, Oregon! To learn more and to apply, visit our website at www.bufordpark.org.
  • FUNDRAISING & OUTREACH COORDINATOR
    Does the prospect of working to protect one of the Southwest's last remaining flowing rivers get you excited? Join the team at Friends of the...
  • DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT SPECIALIST
    Position Summary Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks a dynamic, organized, and creative Digital Engagement Specialist to be an essential part of our growing Communications Team....
  • NORTH IDAHO FIELD REPRESENTATIVE
    Founded by sportsmen and women 1936, the Idaho Wildlife Federation (IWF) is a statewide nonprofit dedicated to conserving and enhancing Idaho's natural resources, wildlife, habitat,...
  • SMALL HISTORICAL FARM FOR SALE - NEW MEXICO
    23-acres, adobe home, shop, barn, gardens, pasture, orchard. https://www.zillow.com/homes/222-Calle-Del-Norte,-Monticello,-Nm_rb/ or call 575-743-0135.
  • NEW MEXICO GILA NATIONAL FOREST HORSE RANCH
    43 acres in the Gila National Forest. Horse facility, custom home. Year round outdoor living. REDUCED to: $1.17 MM 575-536-3109
  • GRANTS MANAGER AND EDITOR
    Are you a strong communicator who excels at building relationships, writing winning grant proposals, and staying organized? You sound like a good fit for our...
  • REPORTER
    The Wallowa County Chieftain, has an opening for a reporter. Experience with and understanding of editorial photography also required. Journalism degree or equivalent, an understanding...
  • 2017 JOHN DEERE LAWN MOWER Z930R
    15 hours on it, 3 years warranty, 22,5 HP, $1600 Sale price. Contact: [email protected]
  • OWN YOUR OWN CANYON - 1400 SF STRAW-BALE ECO-HOME ON 80 ACRES - 3 HOURS FROM L.A.
    1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • HEAD BREAD/PASTRY BAKER AND ASSISTANT POSITIONS
    Hiring Part/Full time for Summer Season - entry level & experienced positions. Year round employment for optimal candidates. Pay DOE.
  • EVERLAND MOUNTAIN RETREAT
    Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • COUNTRY ESTATE NEAR KINGS CANYON AND SEQUOIA PARKS
    Spectacular views of snowcapped Sierras. 15 miles from Kings Canyon/Sequoia Parks. 47 acres with 2 homes/75' pool/gym/patios/gardens. 1670 sq.ft. main home has 3 bdrm/1 bath....
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST NEW MEXICO
    Beautiful off-the-grid passive solar near the CDT. 9.4 acres, north of Silver City. Sam, 575.388.1921