Grauer: A community expert’s view |

Grauer: A community expert’s view

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

Some locals are starting a new website for news and opinion with the provocative name of Aspen Deserves Better but without telling readers, “Better than what?”

Better than the local newspapers and radio stations’ current reporting, apparently, because they said that they hope the website will fill gaps they see in local news coverage, according to an Aspen Times article (“Locals launch a community platform on local issues”).

Hopefully, they read the non-profit Colorado News Collaborative’s painfully honest investigative report this summer on the poor quality of the media in the upper valley. Many community members expressed dissatisfaction with local news reporting being too shallow and vanilla, too unaccustomed to asking hard questions, and not digging deeply for answers.

Will citizen volunteers, and I hope to be one, writing in their spare time, be able to provide the in depth, hard, and sometimes uncomfortable reporting expected by today’s journalism standards and seemingly the community?

Both Aspen newspapers’ use of interns, part-timers, and barely paid or unpaid freelancers and columnists for important stories rather than professional journalists is a cause for concern, said the COLab report (

How will the new website will meet professional journalism standards for fact-checking, correcting errors, and avoiding conflicts of interests? Will all contributors have to disclose any possible conflicts of interest, e.g. real-estate brokers writing about local real-estate and development issues?

The Times article said the website founders would be relying on the community and “experts in the community” for factual accuracy. What is a “community expert”? Collaborating with community input to meet journalism standards will be a work-in-progress for news reporting.

Actual news reporting — meeting journalism standards of fairness, completeness, and context — must be distinguished from editorials and opinion pieces in order to have reader credibility.

Bernard Grauer