To: Tech/social media overlords
Re: Our little newspaper project
I hope this message finds you in ill health.
(I kid! A little.)
It has recently come to my attention that your process of “verifying” young Cascadia Daily News as a legitimate source of news remains a work in progress. Specifically, I’ve been told that you require further information to decide whether to grant “verified” status to us as a producer of news on your digital platform.
First, my hearty congratulations on your bold decision to take baby steps toward ensuring that said platforms are no longer being used for nefarious purposes, including, notably (and this is verifiable): the publication of years’ worth of outright lies as part of a sheer propaganda campaign by the former President of the United States; the daily publication of violence-inducing conspiracy theories; and the daily publication of false and dangerous misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shoot, we all make mistakes!
Subsequent events, however, have made it clear that wantonly distributing information that is neither fact-checked nor verified — and never corrected in any coherent way once revealed to be false — is not among the Seven Habits of Highly Effective communicators (please ask your grandpa). In fact, carpet-bombing the world with fake news can, as we say in our biz, “get your ass in a sling” fairly quickly.
Welcome to our world!
As you and your minions are learning, weeding out BS chaff from beneficial wheat is a time-consuming and expensive process. At the risk of sounding petty, I do find it quite ironic that you, the leaders of Twitter, Google, Facebook, Apple News (oxymoron noted), et al, are asking us to list our reality-world bona fides.
But setting that aside, we do seek to use your platforms for our own non-nefarious purposes, namely spreading the availability of our homespun journalism to more people and in more places. It’s not our first choice, but sadly necessary, so we are willing to help in any way.
In that spirit, please allow me to respond in person to some of the requests for information you have made, and better yet, publicly. We do try to be transparent around here, so I’ll look at this as a useful instance of multitasking. So let us get to your lists (readers looking over our shoulders: these are real questions from various social media purveyors to our organization; so are the answers).
What is your editorial mission?
We exist to maximize the revenue potential of Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter … sorry, that came from the what-they-want-to-hear side of the brain. Actually, we are a small, feisty, locally owned, independent news operation of about a dozen folks, based in Bellingham, Washington. Our mission is to provide people the sort of daily news, features and analysis necessary to feel like a member of the community and to fully and effectively participate as well-informed citizens in what remains of our representative democracy. Etc.
Since you didn’t ask: Our product is our mission, which does not include double-digit profit margins aided and abetted by clickbait publishing or the use of fake news reporters working in other locations.
What is your editorial review process?
Our published material is produced by professional, local journalists, with experience ranging from decades in the news salt mines to recent grad school for investigative journalism. We also use material from contributing writers and interns. All our journalists initially fact-check their own material. It is then further fact-checked and edited by at least two other editors (except in rare deadline circumstances) before it is published online or in the newspaper. Sometimes this does include waking the Executive Editor, and that's OK.
Do you publish any wire content or articles created by other news sites?
Sparingly. We publish national political columns from The Washington Post, which one can assume has its own editorial standards (ask Jeff about this next time you see him in the elevator in Aspen). We publish small amounts of Associated Press material, produced by other news organizations. We also publish some additional third-party content, mostly cartoons, from another national syndicate. We cannot verify the quality of punchlines delivered therein. People take their own chances.
What is your corrections policy?
We correct liberally, which we feel is key to journalistic credibility. Mistakes made in our reporting are acknowledged as soon as we are made aware and are able to verify. Corrective changes made to stories on our website are noted at the bottom of the story, and a revision update time is posted at the top. Mistakes that find their way into our print editions are corrected therein the following week. Social media posts containing mistakes are deleted if possible, and noted in a new post containing the correct information.
We encourage readers to point out errors so we can correct them as quickly as possible. All of our corrections include the note, “Cascadia Daily News regrets the error,” and we mean it, because it means we have failed in some way.
What is your ownership/funding source?
We are a product of Cascadia Newspaper Co. LLC of Bellingham, Washington. The company is solely owned by David Syre, a fourth-generation Whatcom County resident, longtime businessman and current artist. Interestingly, none of you asked the obvious follow-up question, which we will answer anyway: the owner has directed that all editorial decisions at CDN be made within our newsroom.
Anything else we can do to earn that gold star/blue check/Good Housekeeping Seal, let us know! You can check out our FAQ at cascadiadaily.com/faq for additional insights. And in the interest of monitoring our adhesion to the above-described policies, feel free to subscribe at cascadiadaily.com/subscribe.
All the best,
Ron Judd's column appears on Wednesdays. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: roncjudd.