Monday, July 30, 2012

Does the Bulletin Have An Identity Problem?

The larger newspapers in the Pikes Peak region, the Gazette and the Independent, do not cover government news or issues related to Manitou Springs and its politics for the most part. It may be that the city is too small to warrant considerable ink and page space devoted to the politics of a small city with barely a burp over 5,300 souls.

The Pikes Peak Bulletin is generally considered Manitou Springs’ only newspaper. It has a subscription list. It has vending machines for people to buy copies. It has a front page, a sports section, classified ads, an op-ed section. The Bulletin looks, smells, and seems like a newspaper in the same mold as the Gazette and Independent.

The Bulletin, a weekly publication, in fact, shares one commonality with the bigger Independent (also a weekly) with the notable exception that the Independent is free and constantly updates their websites (Facebook, Twitter, etc), providing a continuous stream of information, news, and updates to the public. The daily Gazette also offers fresh news content and information on their websites as well.

Meanwhile,  the Bulletin does not. It is true the Bulletin does have a website but one must purchase a subscription to have access to the contents (news, information, updates) within the website. Both the Gazette and Independent do not have such restrictions. 

So, what is the Bulletin then, if it is not a true journalism driven newspaper? A glorified classified ads? A voice for city government? A propaganda tool?

During the Waldo Canyon Fire evacuations, most city officials and residents left the city, including it seems, the Bulletin. Online, that fact was magnified once social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) began informing the public of the happenings, news, and updates related to Manitou Springs and the fire. It was as if the Bulletin and city officials decided an evacuation was sufficient reason to altogether cease the reporting of anything to city residents, leaving them to fend for themselves amid a sea of confusion during the hours of that early Sunday morning when evacuations were ordered.

Wander online today and you might discover a happy plethora of websites devoted to Manitou Springs. Why, you can search Facebook and discover the Chamber of Commerce’s So Many Things in Manitou Springs page praising discounts offered daily by local businesses.

But there is a huge void. The closest one can find in terms of news content related to Manitou Springs and its government is the Pikes Peak Bulletin. As illustrated in last week’s post (Benson’s Cronyism), and unfortunately, the Bulletin doesn’t seem interested or capable of doing investigative stories, in-depth analyses, or anything remotely critical of city government and officials.

Information creates ideas and vice-versa. Information creates solutions to problems. The competition of ideas is a long-held American process that has created untold improvements for Americans. Debates and discussions about information reported in news media are also part of an important American tradition. We see this everyday online, on TV, at the coffee shop when people discuss the latest talking points made by any presidential candidate anytime within the last 15 minutes. Ideas and information are at the heart of today’s modern world.

It is generally and often noted by many involved in Manitou Springs’ political arena that the city’s residents are politically apathetic, preferring not to vote or participate in elections in large numbers. One reason for that may be the too-cozy relationship between the Bulletin and city government, reinforced by the Bulletin’s lack of a coherent identity (journalism or propaganda pet), and its ability to produce one-sided political stories created by city officials.

One, obvious way to reduce the rampant political and voting apathy in Manitou Springs is to increase the amount of information available to residents. Today, the Bulletin provides outdated and mostly useless information about local government to the public, forcing residents to look elsewhere. But there are no other news media outlets dedicated to and located in Manitou Springs, a fact the Bulletin’s publishers and city officials seem to benefit from.

There are more important issues to be reported about Manitou Springs than the incessant whining on the part of a group of city officials who seem to have nothing better to do with their time than engage in petty, dirty politics.

Here are some ideas for the Bulletin to consider reporting about and for residents to debate: reduce the size of city government. Reduce taxes. Improve and increase accountability and transparency for city government and officials. Increase community collaborations. Increase community-building. Improve communication between residents and the city government in all aspects, and on and on.

And of course, the all-important one: is the Bulletin a news publication or an outdated form of glorified government spam?

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  1. There's a long list of things that I'd like to see somebody write about. I'm concerned with waste as well, and I'm also concerned with respect for property rights, both public and private.

    When I watch the city blow money on the mayor's personal vendetta against a homeowner and buy his house on the mountain, and the same city say they can't afford to hire a few more cops, alarm bells start ringing.

    Then this same government writes an open ended ordinance banning use of "certain park facilities" without a permit because the police are having a hard time, the bells turn into whistles.

    What the hell is going on in Manitou? Is THIS really the only investigative journalism in town?

  2. I went to the regular meeting of City Council last night, and I noticed something that hadn't really raised a flag until I read this article: Anthony Welch, reporter for the Pike's Peak Bulletin, actually has a seat in the City Government section of Council Chambers. He sat closer to Council than Bruno Pothier, director of Public Services.


    The government is so in bed with the newspaper that the paper is seated with the government in its official proceedings.

  3. As a resident of Manitou Springs, I would just like to thank you for establishing this blog and its contents. Truth is all too often hidden under the personal agenda of Council members, and living in such a small corrupt community, you pay-in more ways than one, for speaking truth. I applaud you and your efforts!