In spite of COVID–19, a mission for good journalism expands

  • Report for America
    Report for America
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Even small places deserve good journalism. We’ve said that from the moment we took on the job as the latest in a long line of caretakers here at this 143-year-old newspaper.

Bringing another reporter on board to help expand our coverage here in Ouray County is something we had in the works before COVID-19 hit. But so much has changed since then.

We’ve endured “stay-at-home” orders, we’ve learned to cover meetings virtually, staring at screens for hours. We’ve adjusted our plans and postponed publishing our “Best of Ouray County” contest winners and have our Summer Guide magazine on hold for now until we more about what the near future holds for our local economy.

We’ve negotiated a lot of uncertainty, for sure, and there’s more of that to come.

But something we never wavered on is our determination to expand our reporting staff. The Ouray County Plaindealer is the smallest newspaper chosen to host a Report for America journalist in 2020, and we weren’t going to let a pandemic stop us from moving forward with those plans. The program brings a trained journalist (no, it’s not an intern) to underserved communities to help better cover news.

Another journalist is just what we need to better cover Ouray County right now. And our Report for America reporter will be covering affordable housing as well as some coronavirus-related news, as this is an unprecedented, all-hands-on-deck kind of story we need help telling.

We’re pleased to announce that Liz Teitz has decided to join us as our Report for America journalist and she’ll be starting her new job here in June.

I’ll let Liz tell you more about herself when she gets here, but for now I’ll tell you she’s still working as a reporter at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, and she previously worked at the San Antonio News-Express and the Beaumont Enterprise in Beaumont, Texas. She graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. with a degree in American studies and journalism. Her past work shows she values meaningful stories and wants to serve the community with her storytelling skills. Her impressive collection of clips includes everything from natural disasters to industrial accidents, covering everything from higher education to crime. She can’t wait to meet all of you and hear what you think is important to cover here in her new beat.

But we need a favor. We need your help fmding a place for Liz to live. We realize this is incredibly ironic, since she’s taking on a beat to cover primarily affordable housing and related socioeconomic issues. If you know of a good place coming up for rent in June, please email me so we can help her find her home base here in Ouray County.

Besides helping Liz find a place to live, we still have some work to do before she arrives. One of those things is continuing to ask for community support to fund her position. Our partnership with Report for America requires us to fundraise a local match, to show grassroots support for the position. As of last month, we had raised $5,582 from 122 individual contributions, as well as a $500 grant from the Ridgway Ouray Community Council and more than $400 raised by Ouray School third graders in their read-a-thon in February, both of which we’re incredibly thankful to receive. Our goal was to raise $10,000 by time she arrives. We’re well on our way but we’re not there yet.

We know it’s a difficult time to ask for donations. It’s hard to picture the future, as we negotiate this virus and all the uncertainty it brings. We don’t know from week to week what will happen, or even day to day sometimes. But it’s important to look forward at what we want this community to look like when we emerge from the pandemic. We want this newspaper to continue to serve the community with quality, local news and we envision an even stronger, more capable team with Liz’s help.

You can help us by making a tax-deductible contribution to this project. No matter what happens, investing in local news is good for our community, and we hope you will consider a donation in any amount. You can do so online by clicking here, or you can mail a check to:

Report for America Ouray County Plaindealer newspaper campaign

c/o The GroundTruth Project

10 Guest St.

Boston, MA 02135

As we said, even small places deserve good journalism. Even during a pandemic. Especially during a pandemic. Thank you for supporting your community newspaper.

Erin McIntyre is the co-publisher of the Ouray County Plaindealer. Email her at erin@ouraynews.com.