Tribune celebrates its 150th anniversary, and our mission is as critical as ever

This month, The Tribune celebrates its 150th anniversary, a history that dates back to 1869 and the heady days of Old West California.

Walter Murray, a transplanted Londoner who traveled across the Atlantic to Boston at the age of 17, founded the newspaper and printed the first edition of the Tribune on Aug. 7 of that year.

A century and a half later, that legacy lives on, uninterrupted.

Did you know The Tribune is the longest continuously operating business in San Luis Obispo today?

We’ve come a long way from a time when Murray could print the paper out of his adobe by the Mission.

Over the ensuing years, The Tribune merged with the competing Telegram and has had a number of different owners.

In my 26 years here, we’ve gone from having Scripps Howard as a corporate parent to Knight Ridder to McClatchy, while navigating massive changes in the news industry.

Our move from the office on South Higuera Street to our new home near the Marigold Center was just the latest chapter in that long history.

Joe Tarica jtarica@thetribunenews.com

And although we’ve downsized our physical space and reduced the size of the newspaper (which is now printed in Santa Maria), our reach has never been wider or our mission more vital.

In July, more than 850,000 different people read a story online, watched a video or otherwise engaged with our digital content in whatever time, place or manner is best for them. Compared to the majority of the newspaper industry’s history, which relied on the passing of physical print copies, that’s a huge difference.

So while American journalism certainly is changing, in no way is it dying.

It’s also as critical to our democracy now more than ever, at a time when facts can be twisted and distorted with such skill and shamelessness.

Here’s the thing: Facts are not pretzels, and those who want to bend the truth — or outright obliterate it — must be exposed and held accountable for the damage they do to the public trust.

At this moment, charlatans are roaming your social media feeds looking to deceive you. Propagandists pursuing selfish agendas are posting so-called “news” all over the place with little regard for standards of fairness and decency. They prey on your worst fears and preconceptions.

Basically, if it sounds unbelievable and comes from an unverified source without professional standards of conduct, be judicious with your trust.

That is where we come in, and where we’ve always come in.

The generation of journalists who now occupy this newsroom are as committed to ethically and responsibly covering the stories of San Luis Obispo County as any who came before them.

They have a passion for the work and the role it plays in a healthy democracy.

They strive for accuracy, and when they make a mistake, they correct it promptly. We can’t say that of everyone reporting events in SLO County.

But, all of our staff’s work means nothing without you.

Trib Open House Ribbon cutting.jpg
The Tribune celebrated its new offices on Tank Farm Road with a ribbon-cutting in July. Laura Dickinson ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

Helping to foster an engaged and informed community is our ultimate goal, and we need your support.

Of course, you can do it by signing up for a digital subscription or advertising.

But beyond that, I’d ask you to lend your voice as well.

Some people who become apoplectic about what they see as a lack of respect for symbols or songs can simultaneously fail to show regard for the founding documents of our nation, the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment, and the role the press plays in our society.

And that is a far more dangerous proposition, when you attack actual people and bedrock institutions.

So here’s my request for you:

If you hear someone trashing a journalist, speak up.

If you encounter a commenter hurling slurs on Facebook, call them out.

Defend the role of the media with the same fervor you do the flag.

We’ve been here 150 years, and we plan to be here 150 more.

But we can’t do it without you.

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Joe Tarica is the editor of The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. He’s worked in various newsroom roles since 1993, including as an award-winning copy editor, designer and writer of the Joetopia column. A California native, he has been a resident of San Luis Obispo County for more than three decades and is a Cal Poly graduate.