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September 19, 2013 7:36 am

Newspapers alive and well — and that’s a very good thing

Written by Tribune Staff

Liz Cheney was wrong on both counts when she said, “Newspapers are dying, and that’s not a bad thing.”

Cheney made the pronouncement in Jackson after the newspaper in that community reported — accurately — that she had purchased a resident fishing license prior to establishing residency in Wyoming, and paid a fine for making the claim of residency before she was entitled to do so.

One of the biggest criticisms of Cheney since she announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate is that she has not lived in Wyoming long enough to truly understand or reflect its values, so the news story undoubtedly reinforced that notion for many Wyoming residents.

But Cheney didn’t help her cause by “killing the messenger,” in this case Jackson Hole News and Guide Editor Angus Thuermer — whom she called out by name at a Tea Party rally in Teton County — and she certainly won’t advance her candidacy by assuming that Wyoming’s newspapers have no relevance in the campaign.

According to an American Research Opinion poll conducted after the 2010 election, 90 percent of Wyoming adults read a newspaper or look at a newspaper website during an average week. That same survey demonstrated that more Wyoming people use local newspapers to “get the information they need to decide how to vote in state and local elections” than all other media combined (Internet, television, mail, radio and even word of mouth).

That’s good news for Cheney, who obviously has to redefine herself in the eyes of the people of Wyoming, and convince them that she not only understands this state’s values, but embraces them and will be committed to carrying them to Washington, D.C., if she does win election.

In other words, if newspapers in this state were dying, nobody would be hurt more than Cheney, who needs them dearly if she hopes to change the perception many Wyoming voters have of her.

We hope people don’t base their decision about whether or not to vote for Cheney in her Republican primary bid against Sen. Mike Enzi on her ill-conceived statement about newspapers alone, any more than we think they should vote for or against her strictly because of the mistake she made in purchasing a resident fishing license prior to establishing Wyoming residency, because the office she and Enzi are both seeking is far too important to be decided on those factors alone.

What we do hope is that the voters of Wyoming make their decision based on the values presented by both candidates, the ideas they express and a belief that they can raise the level of function and efficiency of the federal government.

And the only way Wyomingites are going to have any notion of either candidate’s character, ideas or ability is through the reporting done by this state’s newspapers. Fortunately, those newspapers are alive and well, and that’s a good thing indeed, both for the voters of Wyoming and the candidates who are courting them.

(Bob Bonnar is the publisher and editor of the News Letter Journal in Newcastle and president of the Wyoming Press Association.)

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