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|August 14-20, 2008
Back to Letters
Thanks for your trust
by Stewart Sallo
I love anniversaries. Always have. You probably do, too. They’re fun and meaningful at the same time, just like life should always be. And who doesn’t love to reminisce about the way things used to be, particularly within the context of how much better things are now.
Of course, that’s where truth often morphs into fiction, as the very human propensity to revise history, known as revisionism, is called into action. It’s more than a bit interesting that the term “revisionism” contains the same suffix as numerous religions, since there are many folks out there who have made a religion of this particular form of deception (read: lying). But more about that in a minute or so, depending upon how fast you read.
As the Weekly approaches its 15th anniversary, I have been doing quite a bit a reminiscing. It’s been quite a ride at the helm of this wacky ship. We’ve sailed through uncharted waters as the only weekly ever to succeed in Boulder, Colo., despite many serious obstacles throughout the years. We faced undercapitalization and inability to make payroll in our start-up years; a hostile bid to take over our turf by a well-funded new weekly in our third year; a libel suit by a prominent Hollywood star who promised to put us out of business when we were five; a year-long dispute over the claims of ownership of a one-time investor during our seventh year; plummeting ad revenues in the aftermath of the arrival of a Prozac-addicted advertising director as we approached our ninth anniversary; a manufactured claim by a vindictive, gold-digging former employee when we were 12; and, most recently, the threat of a staff-wide walkout, in the wake of the hire of a new CEO whose hidden agenda was to turn the Weekly in a decidedly un-Weekly direction.
But when I ponder the most momentous events in the Weekly’s 15-year history, there is none more significant than the 2005 purchase of the Colorado Daily by the E.W. Scripps Co., which also owns the Camera. Much like any other corporate-consolidation effort, this event created a more formidable, unified competitor for us, which caused the problem-solving minds at the Weekly to dig deeper in search of a strategy that would keep our ship sailing smoothly.
Fast-forwarding three years, the Weekly is now riding an unprecedented wave of growth that belies not only the beefed-up nature of our competitor, but also the well-publicized woes of the newspaper industry, in general. During 2007, both our revenue and page count increased by more than 30 percent, while readership also increased substantially. And that trend has continued in 2008. The edition you are reading, at 80 pages, is the largest regular edition we have ever published, despite the challenging economic climate in which we find ourselves.
And what was the marketing strategy we employed that has led us to this success as we close the books on Volume 15 of the Boulder Weekly? I can tell you in one word: independent.
When Colorado Daily was purchased by E.W. Scripps, Boulder Weekly became the only independent newspaper in Boulder. And while this event represented a challenge to our organization, our strategy was, simply put, to be what we are: an independent source of information that cares more about our readers, and their right to the truth, than anything else. Apparently, that matters to folks in Boulder County, and we are both grateful for your support and humbled by the responsibility you’ve given us.
Like it or not, we live in a world of lies and propaganda, and a proliferation of entities that possess the means and the motivation to deceive you. And the consequences of believing these lies can be dire.
“Saddam has weapons of mass destruction”; “Gay marriage will compromise the sanctity of the institution of marriage”; “Nuclear power is safe”; “Wonder Bread helps build strong bodies 12 ways”; “Oil companies are working hard to protect the environment”; “Global warming is a myth”; “Pharmaceuticals are safe, so long as they’re FDA approved.” These are the kinds of lies that are being told every minute of every day.
As the presidential campaign gets into full swing, upon the conclusion of the convention season that is upon us (and, by the way, Boulder Weekly will have five representatives reporting from the Democratic National Convention, Aug. 25-28), you will be subject to a barrage of lies and propaganda that is limited only by the number of sources with which you come into contact. The recent New Yorker Magazine cover, on which Barack (Hussein) and Michelle Obama are depicted as a pro-Muslim/terrorist sympathizers, hints (cynically) at the kind of deceptive messages that we will inevitably encounter between now and Nov. 4.
That’s why it’s so important to have independent news sources. Newspapers are supposed to be the purveyors of truth, the champion of the underdog, a watchdog on government and big business. But when a newspaper is financially connected to entities with deceitful agendas or organizations that prosper from maintaining their dominance over common people, it ceases to be able to do the job that readers need it to do. And when a news source is beholden to government and/or owned by big business, it becomes complicit in the spread of lies that have the potential to do untold harm and cause widespread suffering.
With unprecedented levels of deception surrounding you, the question, “Whom can I trust?” has never loomed as large. And the answer has never been simpler: Do your homework first before you believe what you read, hear or see. The good news is that it’s never been easier to do so.
The other night, my wife, Mari, and I were talking about the way Obama is being (successfully) portrayed as a Muslim by his political opponents. Mari noted a poll indicating that 12 percent of Americans currently believe Obama is Muslim. Subsequently, a typically spirited dinner table discussion ensued, which led to the following question: What percent of African Americans are, indeed, Muslim?
As if on cue, out came the laptop, and the question was posed, leading to 282,000 sources of information. After reviewing several of them, I selected one called ReligionLink.org, which offered a wealth of information about Islam, including the seminal sentence: “Today, African-American Muslims are among the fastest-growing segments of Islam, accounting for about 30 percent of all American Muslims.”
But how do I know that this information is reliable? Before believing what was presented as “fact,” I decided to do my homework. It’s easy to do. First read what the organization says about itself. In this case, ReligionLink.org proudly proclaimed its purpose as purely informative, its agenda as impartial and its nature as independent. An organization’s representations of itself are no guarantee, of course, but it passed my initial smell test. Next, I looked at the major players at ReligionLink.org.
It turns out that one Diane Connolly is the editor, and I was able to quickly get information about Ms. Connolly that reassured me that the ReligionLink.org characterization of itself was an honest one. Then, and only then, could I believe what I’d read.
Like ReligionLink.org, Boulder Weekly is an independent news source that is proud of its commitment to the highest levels of honesty and integrity. We worked for 15 years to be worthy of your trust and will do our utmost never betray the faith you have placed in us. Please note, however, that one cannot be cynical enough when scrutinizing the agenda of any given news source.
It is my informed belief that the truth is more often found within the ranks of the independent media, and I’ll stand by that statement. But it’s up to you to determine whom you trust, and it’s important that you make that assessment wisely, by exercising caution and due diligence. There may be more at stake than you realize.
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