The Cambrian

Kathe Tanner: Woulda if we coulda

Your reporter loves her job, but she gets terribly frustrated when she can’t be in two places at once, even though she should be. The Cambrian newsroom staff includes two people, Editor Bert Etling and me.

We rely heavily on our beloved columnists, freelance photographers, “stringers” (people who write occasionally for the paper), Viewpoint writers and others to help us cover the bases in this small but exceedingly busy burg.

Video-or audio-taped meetings are a blessing, as long as I can review the former or borrow the latter. It’s almost as good as being there, the chairs are more comfortable and I can take a break from the sometimes less-than- riveting bureaucrat-ese.

Also, I count on my cadre of reliable folks to give me the straight scoop on meetings or events I missed, ground I didn’t get to see broken and songs I didn’t hear sung.

They also call me with tips on news I might have missed. Bless them; I couldn’t do what I do without them.

However, some other people wonder out loud why I didn’t get to this meeting or that event. Didn’t I consider it important enough?

They also ask why I don’t spend all my time doing hard-core investigative reporting, digging into the “back story.” Am I only interested in “good news” articles?

To be blunt, I do as much as I can, and get to as many places as I can, and still leave myself time to finish writing, sometimes burning the midnight oil to complete as many as 15 or 20 stories in a week.

My first responsibility is to get hard-core breaking news and time-sensitive, health-and-safety information to our readers ... everything from accidents, floods and fires, road closures and too-close coyotes or mountain lions on the ranch to explaining to newcomers the ins and outs of Pinedorado.

Each story takes more time than you might think, with phone calls, e-mails, meetings and/or interviews.

By the fifth time I call someone to get information to fill in the blanks, to be told again they’re:

1. Not there,

2. On the phone,

3. In a meeting,

4. At lunch at 3 p.m.,

5. Out of town, or

6. (Although nobody ever admits to this out loud) he or she really just doesn’t want to talk to me…

…well, by then, I’ve wasted at least enough time to have researched and written another story.

Investigative reporting— such as an in-depth, four-part series or dig-it-out exposé — takes tons of research, intuition, shoe leather and cauliflower-ear syndrome, plus lots and lots of time, sometimes weeks or months dedicated to just that topic.

It doesn’t always pencil out.

It costs money to put out a paper…money we get from fees for display ads and subscriptions, want ads and over-the-counter sales.

That’s how we print the paper, pay the rent, keep the lights on and pay us for telling you what went on at those meetings and what’s really happening behind closed doors.

Trust me, it’s no Wall Street gig, paycheck-wise.

In this economy, major newspapers have been failing and changing right and left—not because they haven’t been reporting or investigating the news, but because many businesses aren’t advertising (they have no money to do so), and many classified ads have found free outlets on the Internet.

The Cambrian and The Trib remain profitable, but our staffs are cut to the bone. Fewer reporters still have just as much news to cover, and we can’t be everywhere at once.

I hate it. I want to be there for you.

So I’ll do what I can, including as much investigative work as possible, even late at night or on weekends.

I’ll continue to push, pry and nag on your behalf. I won’t let them off the hook. I promise I’ll cover as many bases as I can.

But I’m only one person. So please don’t ever think that if I’m not at an event, or we don’t get a story published, that we don’t care, or we’re not paying attention, or we’re focusing on putting out “a feel-good paper.”

That’s not how we operate, and most certainly, not how I do.

Got a tip for Kathe? Call her at 927-4140 or e-mail her at ktanner@thetribune Read more “Slices” at