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All Points West: Closing time at the Citizen
December 02, 2016 Frank Marquez   

Read more by Frank Marquez
Regretfully, itís true.

You may call it a trend and something that was bound to happen in America. Outside of corporate backing, the newspaper, especially in small towns, is finding it tough to keep the doors open in much the same way the numbers of small farmers have dwindled in the past few decades. The Gering Citizen is no exception. Our run of about seven and half years has been a mixed bag of joyfulness and sadness, and every emotion in between. Our small band of merry makers Ė reporters, photographers, and ad sales reps Ė has done its valiant best to bring you stories about the events and people in our beloved community, spanning seven villages and towns in the Panhandle with the Twin Cities at its center.

OK, Iím getting to the burning question. What every one of our stories strived to answer was why. Without sounding too cynical about the demands of the job (70-80 hours a week), we are torn between increasing our profits AND increasing quality. Ideally, we would have liked to do both. Allow me to explain. In the past year, some of our long-time advertisers have decided to go their own way to do their own marketing. And although we have had a sustainable profit, it has not been enough to make further improvements to the newspaper.

Every good business owner knows you spend money to make money. Very simply, good employees cost money, and drawing them to west Nebraska without too much incentive, even more challenging. Advertising has ebbed and flowed, and we are thankful to the local businesses who saw fit to support us.

Yet, there are lessons to be learned here. Believing in a free press is the first one. We strived to give our publication a hometown feel with stories on the people who live and work here. We honored and recognized the hard work of the movers and shakers and doers, who invested years to keep our towns thriving. I solicited opinions and letters to the editor to keep the dialogue going, to share ideas, in an effort to make improvements in our community, or at the very least, I thought, we would get to know each other better.

Maybe times have changed us. I admit, I may be viewed as an outsider by some for my 33 years away Ė travelling the world and seeing how others see America, if not west Nebraska. Still, I was born and raised here, and still know quite a number of you. Though in some ways, and probably important ways, regretfully, I donít. My journeying has changed me, and taught me to keep an open mind. I had hoped to offer more of that to you, our readers.

Overall, I personally believe a community can only be as strong as the people in it Ė I mean all people. Diversity can be a strength, and all people should be allowed a seat at the proverbial table. You will not know your neighbor unless you visit with them. Iím all for baking a pie and delivering it to our closest neighbors Lester and Gloria Thompson out here south of Gering, and they have done the same for Lisa and me, epitomizing Nebraska nice. Truly, they have a zest for life and are proud to live here. The community newspaper can serve as this conduit, and often does. They were loyal subscribers from the start. For the record, there were about 1,600 others.

However, we must also realize something else about the community newspaper, and this is something we must take to heart. Aside from keeping us in touch with issues and information, it allows us the opportunity to exercise the extremely important right of FREEDOM of the press, our nationís First Amendment to the Constitution. Have you ever wondered why itís the first amendment? It has taken on even more importance for me over time because I know what can happen to nations who mishandle or quash this right. Governance needs to be careful how it treads, especially among the common folk, ĎWe the People.í

Keep this in mind. We have entered into precarious times, when the voices of America have been dangerously close to being censored, worse in some cases, muted and gagged. Messaging has been dissected and obliterated. Even the Citizen has been accused of political leanings, though several times we have printed columns written by government officials, who, at times have been critical of governance while not focusing on issues which they know can make our daily lives better. I have sometimes countered with the view that WE must come together to manufacture solutions. I have seen little interest in pursuing this course.

In America, we seem to enjoy the news, or something that passes for it. We listen to it when itís most convenient, or when pundits spout views that agree with our own. Some Americans seem to have forgotten compromise; we may politely disagree as gentle people do, but there is a time to cross the aisle, to mend ways, to foster solutions to issues which affect us all. This is why itís important to support your community newspapers in Gering and Scottsbluff. Do all you can to reach out to those remaining publications, and if they are not providing the information you want or need, demand it. But above all, support them.

In the past half century, and in the past 30 years, the amount of time I have served as a journalist in some capacity, trust in the media has eroded. I have my own theory as to why it changed, and most of it stems from the basic human desire to know something, and know it first, which often risks the chances of error. In making mistakes and becoming a circus, the media, and your local newspapers have lost trust. Quality has slipped. Letís face it, watered down news or information equates to gossip, which breeds contempt, and all those other elements that have led us down this road.

Journalism has been a long-time passion of mine. Coming back to Gering, coming back to my hometown, gave me the opportunity and the reason to tell our stories. I will surely miss it.

This is not farewell, though. Iíll still be here, working on my book.
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