Today was the official kick-off for the Salem Reporter, our town's fresh online option for getting local and state news. A few stories had been published earlier, but this was the scheduled opening day.
The web site design is a clone of another paper (Malheur Enterprise) operated by Les Zaitz, who founded Salem Reporter along with businessman Larry Tokarski.
Salem Reporter looks clean, bright, modern, and easy to read. Given that there won't be lots of stories on the Salem Reporter site, it makes sense to simply list the latest stories on the home page, plus a brief description of each, with the full story just a click away.
My favorite story on Day 1 was the one shown in the image above, "Secretary of State remains mum on health details, says he's feeling better." Reporter Aubrey Wieber did a great job with a sensitive topic -- Dennis Richardson's brain cancer diagnosis, and how it is affecting Richardson's ability to carry out his duties.
I hadn't seen anybody else reporting on this issue.
Not the Oregonian, not the Statesman Journal, nobody, to my knowledge. Congrats to Salem Reporter for having the journalistic fortitude to write about Richardson's medical problem so informatively, and without sensationalizing it.
But behind the scenes, speculation has begun to swirl through the Capitol Mall about how far along Richardson’s cancer is and how severe are the effects.
Richardson and his office have withheld that information. Richardson’s staff has refused to shed more light on his condition, aside from releasing a few videos where the secretary told the public his health was improving and he was still dedicated to the job.
His staff won’t disclose the type of cancer, the prognosis or what sort of treatment Richardson opted for. Richardson and his staff have repeatedly said they will not answer questions about his health.
It’s a change in philosophy for the public official who has advocated for transparency throughout his career.
...In contrast, the late Sen. John McCain was forthcoming about his tumor, telling the public what sort of cancer he had, what sort of treatment he would undergo and what his prognosis was.
Early on, Zaitz said that Salem Reporter would act as if it were the only paper in town, or words to that effect. I respect that sentiment, but I also hope that Salem Reporter will continue to fill the journalistic void where other publications either fear to tread, or haven't trod.
I say this in part because for now, at least, Salem Reporter isn't going to be able to duplicate what the Statesman Journal is able to offer subscribers. Like, sports news, national news, an opinion section. So for me, at least,the "added value" of Salem Reporter is going to come from stories that I'm not able to read anywhere else.
Regarding opinion, that's one of my favorite sections in a newspaper, right after the front page. Hopefully before too long the Salem Reporter will find a way to introduce some opinionating in this online news source.
Lastly, I wish the Salem Reporter would allow comments on its stories.
I enjoy both reading and writing comments on the Statesman Journal web site, which are linked to Facebook, thereby expanding the reach of comments and assuring that those who comment have a real name associated with what they say.
Comments also allow for readers to easily provide feedback to the reporter who writes a story. Fairly often I'll either point out an apparent error in a story, or something that is missing in a story. Also, I readily admit, I like to share a link to a blog post I've written on a subject in a Statesman Journal story.
Since Salem Reporter is an online news source, there needs to be more opportunity for readers to interact with both reporters and other subscribers. Right now Salem Reporter feels too much like a one-way street, rather than a two-way boulevard.
Of course, I'm a blogger who is used to comments being left on posts that I write. Often I learn a lot from the entertaining comments,, as do visitors to my blogs.