Since you’re reading this, odds are you’re already a subscriber to the Transcript-Bulletin. But imagine you’re not. Imagine you’re a fairly recent immigrant to Tooele County who works in Salt Lake City. You read one of the daily papers, watch the evening news and consider yourself reasonably well informed. What are you missing by not taking the local paper?
One answer comes from a quick look at our Top 10 biggest news stories of 2007, which appeared in Tuesday’s edition of the paper. Several of those stories were either not covered at all or given only cursory treatment by larger media.
In fact, our top story of last year — the arrival of Fortune 500 giant Allegheny Technologies and the establishment of a new high-tech industrial zone that could change the direction of economic development in the county — went virtually uncovered by any other newspaper or on any TV newscast. We were the only media to talk with Allegheny CEO Patrick Hassey — the 24th highest-paid CEO in America, according to Forbes magazine — and Governor Huntsman when they broke ground on the new facility. The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News both proposed Proctor and Gamble’s decision to build a $300 million paper goods plant in Box Elder County as one of the biggest stories of 2007, yet largely ignored Allegheny’s $450 million plant in Tooele County.
Our No. 3 story of 2007 on the election of Dave McCall, the first black ever elected to the Tooele City council, also went uncovered by other media. This piece was an example of how deep local roots can enable a hometown paper to do a story others have no context for. In that same vein, we did stories on Rush Valley’s rust belt, politics in tiny Ophir, the Goshute tribe’s quest for energy independence in Skull Valley, and the installation of Grantsville’s first-ever stop light — all “small-town” stories that were later picked up on by the Associated Press and other major media outlets.
Even when we’re not the only media outlet to do a story, we’re often the first. Last year, we broke stories on everything from endangered local wetlands to a change of command at Dugway Proving Ground to a new mega casino-housing-retail project in Wendover. We even scooped the dailies on some stories we had no business scooping them on, such as EnergySolutions initial public offering on the New York Stock exchange.
We try to follow up on local stories long after larger media have moved on. For example, instead of simply reporting a crime, we tracked many cases through the justice system, reporting along the way on the perpetrators and victims to give a fuller sense of the story to readers. Our No. 5 story of 2007 on two high-profile sex offenders who had abused the public’s trust was a good example of this.
We also did stories that helped change things for the better. Our reporting on accidents at the dangerous intersection of Durfee Street and SR-112 in Grantsville helped push UDOT to redesign the intersection to be safer. The day after we published a story on hand-stamping school kids who hadn’t paid their lunch money, the school district discontinued the stigmatizing practice. Our reporting on Grantsville City’s full-court-press prosecution of a man who’d taken one of the mayor’s political signs eventually prodded the city to drop the frivolous case. And our recent series of stories on the Payne family’s fight to celebrate Christmas with their terminally ill father helped raise around $5,500 from the community — money that allowed the family to pay down bills and be together for the holidays.
Looking back over the past year, perhaps the best reason to read the Transcript-Bulletin is not just because we do big stories or do them well enough to be named the best small, non-daily newspaper in the state by the Society of Professional Journalists last year. The best reason to read any good, local paper is because in today’s world it’s easy to miss the trees for the forest. The presidential campaign drowns out news of our own city council elections. The immediate flash of a celebrity in crisis blinds us to the slow creep of local development, water and infrastructure issues that will impact us a thousand times more. The short answer to why you should read the local paper is easy: to know what’s going on at home.