On Thursday, March 18 Ark Valley Voice turned three years old. We didn’t do it with a lot of fanfare, because frankly, all our reporters were busy; covering government meetings, pursuing leads, writing news stories, investigating extremism, meeting with community members, doing our jobs.
So 156 weeks, 936 publishing days, 4,205 stories later, we’re still here. We began with a handful of local readers and a couple of writers and a couple of stories a week. Now we are nine crew members publishing several stories a day, six days a week (and more if the situation calls for us to keep you informed). We are award-winning members of the Colorado Press Association and of the prestigious Colorado News Collaborative (COLab). Ark Valley Voice is up to 38,000 readers, in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, and 17 countries.
What we do has not been easy, especially in the current political environments. But we have persevered because what our four-word mission compels us; because truth should and does have a voice.
The alternative — that which is false – is the real fake news. Often that still small voice of truth is silenced by powers and politics and bigotry, by those spouting false narratives, alternative facts, and yes – the Big Lie that Trump won the 2020 election and that massive fraud occurred. Fact: he lost by millions of the popular vote, a massive loss of the electoral college, and there was no voter fraud.
The focus on truth is in my DNA. My grandmother used to tell us grandkids; “Always tell the truth, then you never have to remember what you said.”
Professionally, my personal hero, Eleanor Roosevelt said many memorable things, but the one that has driven me always is, “You must do the things you think you cannot do.”
Therefore — AVV must and does persevere in the face of threats, name-calling, funding challenges, and all the other attacks these days on those news media. The fact that what we do is protected by the First Amendment, fuels our focus on truth.
Renowned journalist Dan Rather recently published an opinion piece in Steady titled “Do Republicans Believe in Democracy?” It is a worthy question and a must-read article. In it, he lays out these questions “respectfully submitted” that he believes every journalist must now ask those who hold elected office:
- Did Joe Biden win the election?
- Is there widespread voter fraud? If the answer is yes, demand that they point to verifiable examples (hint: there are none)
- Do you support voter suppression efforts? If they hem and haw or try to reframe it, follow up with specific remedies they are seeking to fix and examples of the problems they claim exist (hint #2: there are none)
- Why are you trying to limit people’s access to the polls?
- Why do your claims of voter problems often focus on Black communities and others with racial diversity?
- Do you support your colleagues who spread the Big Lie?
- Did President Trump foment the attack on the Capitol?
- What should be done with your colleagues who egged on the mob?
Let’s be clear about something else. We agree with Rather that there is nothing in journalistic standards that says we have to give a platform for someone to spread lies, even if they are a senator or representative (or even the president). We don’t have to give the cult fantasy that is QAnon a voice. We don’t have to justify District 3 Lauren Bobert’s ridiculous claims that God is on the side of Trump and right-wing militias, or that God supports her right to carry a gun onto the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“The Washington press corps has operated for decades under one basic assumption: both Democrats and Republicans, whatever their ideological differences, ultimately believe in the norms and tenets of America’s constitutional government. Sadly, this assumption is no longer a given. What that means for the future of American journalism, and for the country as a whole, is not entirely clear. We are living in dangerous times that cannot be normalized or ignored. …
… No analysis of the political climate of the present can ignore what we have seen. We had an attempt to steal a presidential election that wasn’t even close. Wow. It still boggles the mind. To make matters even worse, this effort was conceived and promoted by the President of the United States himself. It was based on lies and intimidation. When presented in courts, even before Republican judges, the arguments of the president and his enablers were readily dismissed, often with thinly-veiled derision. The merits of this anti-democratic crusade would have been laughable, if they weren’t so dangerous.
… Expect a partisan showdown on a voting rights bill that will soon emerge in Congress. Already the Republicans are demonizing an effort to make elections fairer with the usual fear-mongering and lies. To them, the sanctity of the vote only matters when it is advantageous for their hold on power.”
This past week, AVV published a news story informing our readers that several far-right social media sites were promoting events for March 20 that asserted their grievances (we separate those defending the beef industry from those other grievances — many AVV crew members enjoy a good steak as well as the next person!).
It received a substantial number of comments, some of which we cannot publish because of the content. Clearly covering anything about the right-wing support of the Big Lie (see above) elicits attacks that continue to defend the lie. AVV reminds readers of history; those who supported the rise of Hitler were similar fascist-defenders, fed by grievance, entitlement, and fantasy of a master race. For the record — they were wrong.
“Colorado is in a unique position to change the way the public thinks about journalism,” said COLab Executive Director Laura Frank this past week during a state-wide Truth in Journalism presentation.
We agree. And for those who would choose to attack this Our Voice, we remind you that “Our Voice” IS our editorial section, the only part of AVV where we get to tell you what WE believe.