Who do we think we are?
As editor of the Nevada Appeal, I've been asked that question, implicitly or explicitly, several times recently. Almost invariably, it's posed in a challenging, defiant way. Sometimes it's followed by a phrase summarizing the questioner's beef:
"Who do you think you are, calling for an election on the City Center Project?"
"Who do you think you are, publishing the news of my DUI arrest without calling me first?"
"Who do you think you are, putting a cellophane wrapper on my paper so it clogs my snowblower?"
The easy one first: Our carriers deliver the Appeal in bags to prevent rain, sprinklers or snow from soaking the paper. The bags are brightly colored so that the paper can be spotted in a snowdrift (and, thus, avoided by your snowblower). We do that because many readers have asked us to.
As to the first two questions, and others of their ilk, the answers are more nuanced. First and foremost, the Nevada Appeal's mission is like that of almost all other newspapers: To inform, entertain and enlighten. This passage, from a 2005 edition of the Appeal, puts it into perspective:
"For nearly 140 years we've chronicled history. The biggest events in the world - electricity, the telephone, World War I, the walk on the moon, Watergate, Whitewater, atomic testing, the September 11 terrorist attacks and the war in Iraq - and the daily events affecting the lives of our readers."
Going from the global to the local, that means writing up Uncle Hank's DUI arrest. It means reporting on both sides of the City Center controversy, and weighing in with opinions - on the Opinion page, where opinions belong - as we see fit. That's what a newspaper should do.
And we do it amid a growing drumbeat of skepticism about our objectivity. That's fair enough - I, too, have become jaded by the cacophony of talk-show rhetoric and opinion masquerading as news and the first-time caller, longtime listener on Line 5.
That's not what this newspaper is about. We offer opinions, but only informed ones, and only on the Opinion page. We poke our pens and cameras into dark government places and see what squirms, then tell you and show you what came out. (We might even post video of it on our website.) We cover 90-year-olds' birthday parties and preschool parades. And we'll continue doing these things with fairness and objectivity.
When we screw up, we'll correct it. Not only will we accept honest criticism, we will thank you for it and probably publish it as a letter to the editor. We will also thank you for calling in a news tip, for buying an advertisement and for renewing your subscription.
And now we're going one step further. Within the next few weeks, the Nevada Appeal will convene a Readers Advisory Panel - a dozen-odd Carson City folks who've been invited to participate because they've shown themselves to be agreeable (while not always agreeing), constructive, positive members of the community who read the Appeal closely and who believe that a great city should have a great newspaper. They were chosen because their politics (whatever they may be) don't cloud their perspectives.
The panel will meet about every two months and advise us on how to make the Appeal better, and we'll share their recommendations here from time to time.
So, who do we think we are? We're not who we were a year ago, or five years ago, or 50. Tomorrow's paper will be better than yesterday's. Next week's editions will be better than last week's. A year from now, thanks to our readers panel, we'll be a better paper than we are today. Yes, that's a matter of opinion - and it's here on the Opinion page, where it belongs.
• Editor Dennis Noone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.