Joetopia

Tribune journalists are here to shine a light into dark corners, but we need your help

Joe Tarica.
Joe Tarica.

This is my first column of a new era, and I will now connect with you as editor of The Tribune, as opposed to my previous role as No. 2 in the newsroom.

If you've ever been to the top, it can be an unnerving place. It's windy, full of open air, and there's nowhere to go but down, the easiest way being by falling.

I don't plan to do that, and I'm not operating without a net.

The net is this team of talented journalists around me.

They are the backbone of this operation, and I wanted my first words in this new role to be about them.

They bring their passion and energy to work every day. They do it with low pay and little fanfare. They deserve more of both.

Often they endure abuse and unfair criticism in pursuit of one of the most noble professions in our democracy — a right enshrined in the U.S. Constitution's No. 1 spot.

These journalists may not run into the burning building, but they're right there next to the firefighters, as close as they'll let us get, which is often not near enough for our tastes.

They're in the courtroom and the mayor's office, building relationships, digging for information and filing public records requests so you have the facts you need to form your opinions. They understand their job is to get the information someone doesn't want you to know.

The majority of us work quietly from offices and corner cafes, within council chambers and sports stadiums.

Usually those are safe workplaces, until they aren't, as was made shockingly clear when a gunman stormed the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, this week and killed five innocent people who dedicated their life's work to protecting our democracy.

What did the surviving members of that newsroom do after witnessing an unspeakable tragedy?

They went back to work, from the bed of a pickup truck in a parking garage, somehow pushing aside the shock and sorrow to do their jobs. Within 45 minutes, they had their first story posted. They printed a newspaper the next day.

That kind of response and dedication is testament to the people who work in this business. In fact, to call it a business doesn't do it justice. It's a calling.

I chose journalism as a college major because I like to write, but I remained as a career because I want to make a difference in our community by defending truth and fact, to ensure you are as broadly and honestly informed as you can be.

At the start and end of every day, that is our goal. Don't believe anyone who would tell you otherwise.

We can't do this without you.

We want to hear from you, both when you applaud what we've done and when you don't. We take each and every one of these conversations seriously, and they help shape the decisions we make.

Sometimes, you might question why we are or are not covering a story you're hearing about from friends or on social media.

But before we publish anything, especially accusations that may damage real people, we must fully confirm the story.

We always want to be first, but we want to be right above all else. To do otherwise is irresponsible.

As you know, this is a precarious time for journalism in America. Newspapers are trying to straddle the past and future, print and online, using the mediums more and more people rely on for information.

Despite those challenges, we will continue to fight for the truth, and we plan to be a pillar of this community long into the future, building on a history that dates to 1869.

On that note, I will leave you with one request.

I'm asking you to support us in our effort. Sign up for a digital subscription at sanluisobispo.com. Subscribe to our print newspaper. Tell your friends why you value local news.

An online subscription costs no more than two fancy coffees a month, and it gives you access to a wealth of information, our mobile apps and our e-edition for those who like to read our content in its print presentation.

The Washington Post says "Democracy Dies in Darkness," and that is a fitting rallying cry for what we do.

But we can only shine light into dim corners with your help.

Thank you in advance for this support and to everyone who has shared words of encouragement this week.

Off we go!

Joe Tarica is the editor of The Tribune and sanluisobispo.com. Reach him at 805-781-7911, jtarica@thetribunenews.com, @joetarica.
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