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Publisher’s perspective- Huerfano County legals

The accompanying article, “The Hostile Media Phenomenon,” was originally run in September 2008 in the Huerfano Journal. It talks about “what happens when someone with a partisan viewpoint on some issue – pretty much any partisan viewpoint – is exposed to news coverage on that issue. It turns out that partisans on each side of a conflict perceive media coverage as being excessively critical of their side while giving a free pass to the other.”
We have decided to run “Hostile Media” again this week, in light of the Huerfano County Commissioners’ recent decision, upon the recommendation of the county administrator, John Galusha, to award the publication of county legals to both newspapers.
While we are not contesting their decision, there were some misperceptions and inaccuracies in the reasons cited by Galusha in making his recommendation. We feel it is important to point these things out for the record, and feel it is evidence of “The Hostile Media Phenomonon” at work in our county.
In a meeting last Friday with the HWJ, John Galusha explained his recommendation to the commissioners was made in large part due to his perception of “biased and inaccurate reporting” on the part of the Huerfano World Journal.
These are the points we wish to touch upon with regard to this decision: bias and inaccuracy in reporting. We also invite our readers to read “Hostile Media” to learn more about how coverage of any given issue can be perceived very differently according to one’s own preconceived biases.
The Huerfano World Journal does its very best to present factual, unbiased reporting of all issues in our area. We recognize in almost every case, there are two sides to every story. The charge of inaccurate and biased reporting levied at the Huerfano World Journal by Galusha, largely centers on the highly charged issue of news coverage of Shell and fracking in the county.
We find that charge of biased reporting somewhat ironic due to the fact that while the commissioners and their administrator may feel we are on one side of this contentious issue, many supporters of the local anti-fracking movement feel we ‘are in the pocket’ of the commissioners.
We have not taken an editorial stance on this issue because, while we recognize the potential environmental harm fracking has shown in other locations, we also see the absolute necessity of economic development in Huerfano County. Our responsibility as a newspaper is “to provide people with the information they need to be free and self-governing,” not to promote any given agenda.
As to the charge of inaccurate reporting on this issue, note that our commissioner beat reporter, Bill Knowles, records all meetings he attends, and refers to those recordings as he writes. He also does exhaustive extra research on his in-depth articles on the fracking controversy, including listening to hours of recorded testimony on fracking hearings in court proceedings. He reads articles, pro and con, published by other news organizations all across the country to get the widest possible range of perspectives on fracking, from both anti-fracking groups and industry
spokespersons. Locally he attends CHC meetings and reports their viewpoints for the record. He also works tirelessly to encourage people who favor local oil and gas drilling to speak out. His articles are solid and have the research and sources to back up what he writes. We are fortunate to have a reporter so dedicated to in-depth research, going above and beyond to cover our county’s important issues.
It would be far easier, and much less controversial, if he were to simply act as a weekly stenographer of commissioners’ meetings.
We wish to point out that the Signature engaged in biased and inaccurate reporting in their account last week of the commissioners meeting. David Rinehart headlined his article saying “County selects The Signature to print legal notices in 2012.”  While that is partially true, it is certainly misleading and self serving in that the headline implies that the Signature was the only paper chosen. Rinehart further went on to report that “Galusha cited the Signature’s higher circulation as a reason to add printing notices in [The Signature]”. Referring to Knowles’ recording of the Dec. 21 commissioners’ meeting, Galusha stated that the World Journal’s circulation is “over 2,100,” while the Signature’s is “over 2,400.” Actually, both newspapers have print circulation of 2,500 copies each week over the course of a calendar year. So, technically, Galusha’s statements were “accurate” in that both papers print more than the figures stated, but his words were certainly misleading. When questioned as to where he obtained those figures, Galusha said he thought they were from post office reports, but was not sure.
The Signature did nothing in their article to clarify actual print circulation figures of the two papers.  We see this as biased and taking unfair advantage of Galusha’s having incomplete circulation figures in order to spin the article their way.
We at the Huerfano World Journal are dedicated to fair and accurate reporting of all issues and we believe strongly that all sides and views in our county must be represented. We remain dedicated to helping to build the bridges that will bring together our communities.
We say it every week in our mission statement at the bottom of page 4: “The Huerfano World Journal’s goal is to promote a sense of community, unity and cooperation among the citizens of Huerfano County.
Together we can accomplish great things, and make our ‘World’ a better place for all.”
We know in some circles this may be seen as a pipe dream. None of us here wear rose-colored glasses, but neither do we wear blinders.
~Gretchen and Brian Orr

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