What is FAIR … | AspenTimes.com

What is FAIR …

By trade, journalism is a fairly easy occupation to enter.

Unlike lawyers, architects, physicians, realtors, and the like, journalists don’t need a license to practice their trade. They don’t need to pass an exam to become a member of the press; for that matter, they don’t even need to go to school ” though it helps.

To become an investigative reporter, all one needs is a pen and paper, a functional keyboard, and the ability to dig up documents and scrutinize them ” and ask good questions along the way. Getting the story right, the first time, should be the top priority.

That’s a starting point, at least. And as in all professions, there are good journalists and there are bad ones.

Aspen is home to two daily newspapers, but to some locals, that’s not enough. Enter Factual Aspen Investigative Report (FAIR), a start-up nonprofit that hopes to raise enough funds to pay an investigative reporter $500 a week.

The architects of FAIR are Aspen Times opinion columnist Roger Marolt (who claims he’s really a third wheel), developer and former Aspen City Councilman Tim Semrau and Bill Dinsmoor, owner of the Main Street Bakery.

The trio contends that newspapers don’t dig deep enough, so FAIR plans to make up for this shortcoming. We welcome FAIR to the fray.

In fact, apparently Semrau has been batting around a few story ideas, and plans to have a FAIR reporter chase them down.

If there’s an irony here, it’s the reaction of a few media types who take offense to FAIR, which they claim has no business telling us how to do our job. After all, none of

FAIR’s organizers have reported news (Marolt merely offers a weekly opinion), so how would they know how to do it?

FAIR’s organizers simply are doing what the local press does regularly: Reporting how others do their jobs and sometimes offering advice on how to do it ” even though they have no experience doing it themselves. Whether it’s a suggestion for the Aspen Skiing Co., the Aspen Police Department, the county commissioners, etc., the local press opines on all sorts of local and regional issues.

We can say that we do our best to keep the public’s interest in mind when we offer suggestions or criticism. And we’re not so grandiose to believe that public officials heed our advice.

FAIR, however, appears to be spearheaded by a man who lost the mayor’s runoff election last June, and a restaurant owner who’s been public about his frustration over the recent property tax hikes, among other things. Marolt’s hands aren’t exactly clean, given his propensity years ago to write letters to local newspapers using a fictitious name.

We’re curious to see what FAIRness means in this context.

While the occupation may be easy to enter, remaining in it is the challenge because success rests upon credibility. It becomes apparent to readers if you have an ulterior motive as a journalist ” whether it’s for access, freebies, or political motivations, just to name a few.

We wish FAIR the best of luck. As is the standard in this industry, it will be up to the readers to decide.