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For Whom the Bell Tolls …

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

-John Donne, 1624

Two years ago a writer for the Park Record interviewed me for a story about the Park Rag and our attempt at citizen journalism. We spent about 2 hours discussing the Rag and why citizen journalism was important. The night before the story was supposed to be run, I received a call from the writer who said that the story had been shelved. It appears that persons within the Park Record felt the Park Rag somehow competed with them. I joked… “sure, like the fruit fly competes with the human for a sip of wine.” Still, I understood.

So, it was with more than normal interest that I read that the Park Record had been sold to Swift Communications, a company with 27 newspapers in 5 states. Previously the Park Record had been owned by Digital First Media and was a part of MediaNews Group which had 56 papers in 12 states. MediaNews Group is one of the largest newspaper companies in the country and includes papers such as the Denver Post, Salt Lake Tribune, and the Detroit News.

According to the Park Record,the transition will be smooth and seamless. I suppose I am more worried about the long term impact. While there are outspoken critics of the Park Record who state that it is purely in existence for real estate and restaurant advertising, I believe they serve a crucial function in our community. They not only update us on what is happening with our local government, but provide information on Park City events, local sports, and cover the important news topics each week. They have dedicated reporters that are good at their job.

I have no knowledge of Swift Communications or how they operate, yet a quick glance at Swift’s Wikipedia Page doesn’t inspire confidence. Whether you are a reporter, reader, or advertiser it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. I also look at swift’s online newspaper properties and they are clearly inferior to what we experience today. They look like they are something designed out of 1999 by your next door neighbor’s kid. Not good.

Of course, what we really care about is the reporting, and as long as sweeping changes don’t happen to the editorial staff and reporters we will hopefully continue to get good information from the Park Record. However, if staff is cut, or publication days are reduced, it could confirm some of our worst fears. It should be interesting to watch what changes happen over the next twelve months.

I truly hope that whatever changes occur, that the essence of what we have come to expect from the Park Record remains intact.


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