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A Letter from the Editor

 

 

"It's Worth the Wait"

That's what we here at The Sedona Observer like to think as we present you with another exciting edition in response to public demand. Chocked with intriguing new videos and pages such as Election Year 2008, Media Reform, Economy and Development, Sustainable Living and a blog called "Observations," we believe the newspaper's quality literary journalism and thought-provoking articles are certainly worth the wait.

From our perspective as journalists who are used to working at daily newspapers, this production seems to take forever for us to deliver. And we realize that many of you, as browsers in a high-speed world, must wonder what takes us so long to come out with another issue.

Amazingly, during my first journalism job at The Miami Herald in 1978, we produced 23 DAILY editions, seven days a week, WITHOUT computers or any of the technology we have today. We typed our stories on IBM Selectric typewriters, laid out the pages with razor blades, developed rolls of film by hand in darkrooms and pulled all 23 editions off the presses in a steady stream, between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m., running them to the airport for delivery to international and nationwide audiences.

And, in my three years there, we never missed a single deadline.

If you told me then that one day I'd be creating a newspaper on a screen, I would have never believed it. Yet here we are with all this marvelous technology and it still takes weeks to post the next edition online.

Quality, not quantity

As I bemoaned this fact to one of our subscribers recently, he comforted me with an important reminder: "Look at the quality of the art and writing," he said, "and look at the great videos. Great art takes time, and I'm willing to wait for yours. When I pull it up on my screen, it is so rich and magnificent. Other papers may distribute every day, but the Observer is so worth the wait."

Still, I believe readers need to know what we do behind the scenes - hopefully without boring you too much.

First, we focus on investigative reporting instead of surface news. Such immersion journalism requires gobs of time - which is just one reason you don't find much of it these days. In order to create the kind of material you see here, our contributors must think, probe, research, interview, photograph and analyze. Then they wait for quotes and callbacks, conduct interviews and attend meetings.

After that, they must review their notes and images and conceive the framework of a story or video. All this, mind you, is performed in our "spare" time after completing an 8-hour day because we all work at odd jobs or do freelance work for survival.

Passion and dedication

After several drafts, the stories arrive on my editor's desk. Then my work begins. I'm usually doing all of the above for another story anyway while fielding countless calls and e-mails, writing grant proposals, conducting Web site optimization and Internet marketing, etc.

I design each page, edit every story, check the facts, make revisions, write intros and headlines, search for illustrations, change commas to semi-colons and move quotation marks so they appear AFTER the period. I demystify acronyms and verify name spellings. I format documents, fonts as well as type colors and sizes, and then transform the copy into Associated Press Style, checking for compliance with media laws and journalism ethics.

At The Miami Herald, I performed such tasks as part of a huge army of dozens of editors. Here at the Observer, it's a one-person editing team because we lack the funding to pay for staff.

Needless to say, it's a Herculean task, let alone for a paper that doesn't produce a dime. None of us derive any income from our efforts because we purposely shun advertising in order to maintain our editorial integrity. That's how we're able to bring you the stories you see - on health care, politics, national issues, media and socioeconomic concerns.

But we're not trying to throw a pity party here or offer excuses or even beg for donations to pay our contributors. I take the time to share this because so many of you call and e-mail to question: "Where's the next issue? What's taking so long?" And you deserve to know.


      Photo by Nancy Bartell/Sedona

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.

                                                              --LaoTzu


Speaking truth to power

Some people also ask: Why are you doing this without earning any revenue?

We believe that therein lies the essence of public service journalism. The Sedona Observer is our gift to you, our community, our fellow citizens and our neighbors. We do it for the common good.

And for the TRUTH - because we became journalists to tell it. As altruistic and idealistic as that may sound, it's the simple reason we all knock ourselves out here to produce this publication, often under much duress and with little sleep. Because we believe these stories must be told and that revenue should have nothing to do with it. Because newspapers represent a service to our community, not a commodity, in the name of democracy.

We feel our communities and the American public in general must become better informed and more aware of what goes on behind the facade of institutions that, until now, have remained without question: government authorities, medical organizations, hospitals, corporations, insurance companies and others that hold our lives and fortunes at stake while we assume they have our best interest at heart.

We think the American public should start doing we what we do every day on the job as journalists: QUESTION AUTHORITY.

Change and truth

Right now, Observer contributors are working into the wee hours, digging and investigating leads and dissecting allegations to expose the truth for you. I, myself, have been focused on a particular story for weeks - one that will take many more before all the layers of the artichoke are peeled back to reveal the heart. This is our job, and we love it. Because journalists are supposed to serve the public as watchdogs.

We also believe that America has reached a critical time when the media must return to its roots, with journalism that is dedicated to truth, instead of wealth and power, as our forefathers intended. In today's health care climate, for example, our reporting is dedicated to saving lives and life savings as the medical industry continues to devour both.

We have no time to waste - even if it means 18-hour days. The time has come to create positive change - by changing the media first.

Upholding the First Amendment

So, from now on, if the next issue doesn't pop up on your screen right away, rest assured we're in production mode like Santa's elves, probably while you're sleeping. And if you still want to call, go ahead. Our answer will be the same as Michelangelo's when the pope demanded to know how soon he would see the completed Sistine Chapel paintings: "When it's finished."

Thank you for your patience, support, compassion and belief in the changes we are trying to make in our community and in today's media. After all, somebody's gotta do it.

Keep exercising your First Amendment freedoms by sending us your letters, editorials and comments. This is your paper - read it, engage in it, participate in it and respond to it. As an independent nonprofit press with no affiliations or investors, we are proud to serve as your voice and your vehicle of free expression. Use it! Simply click on the link below and send us your thoughts. We can't wait to hear from you!

Oh, and by the way, we have already started producing the next delicious issue.

 

editor@SedonaObserver.com

 

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