This week, the Durango Herald’s Reuben Schafir had the honor of reporting on a protest by the La Plata County Republican Party against his own employer the Herald, and by extension himself. It’s an interesting journalistic predicament:
Approximately 20 protesters, including leaders of the La Plata County Republican Central Committee, convened outside The Durango Herald office Tuesday morning holding signs asking passersby to “boycott biased Herald.”
Party chairwoman Shelli Shaw, past chairman Dave Peters and secretary Hope Scheppelman were all present. Signs held by attendees called out staff of The Herald by name.
“Put the information out there and let people decide for themselves,” Shaw said. “It doesn’t need to be censored or decided by The Durango Herald or any other media outlet. It needs to be presented and let people have the ability to think for themselves.”
As can be expected, Tuesday’s Republican protest against the Durango Herald was long on pseudo-patriotic incendiary rhetoric but terribly short on concrete allegations, citing a minor typographical error in one photo in a story about a recent visit to the area by Monument-based far-right whacktivist Darcy Shoening and an overall unsubstantiated sense of “bias” against conservatives in the Herald’s reporting. La Plata County GOP chairwoman Shelli Shaw is herself a well-known source of far-right verbal diarrhea, but from what we can see the Herald has actually been kinder to her than other outlets who have reported her immoderate views in much greater detail. Apparently the Herald also enforces minimal standards for their letters to the editor section:
Opinion Editor Ann Marie Swan was not available for comment before deadline, but a recent editorial calling for letter submissions said that some letters “won’t see the light of day in our pages because they’re inappropriate or don’t meet basic criteria,” and highlighted that “the most common reason being letter writers’ opinions must be based in fact.” [Pols emphasis]
Rather than meet the exceedingly low bar that submissions be based in reality, La Plata County Republicans served notice to the Herald that they are no longer welcome at party events.
The GOP executive committee also delivered a letter to The Herald stating that its members would only communicate with the newspaper “via digital means.” The letter also said The Herald’s journalists were no longer welcome at the party’s events, including the upcoming Lincoln Day Dinner.
Banishing the Herald from the La Plata GOP’s upcoming Lincoln Day Dinner is particularly notable due to the headline speakers slated to attend, Reps. Matt “Giggity” Gaetz of Florabama and Gaetz’s regular traveling companion Lauren Boebert. The event, scheduled for a week from Saturday, lands right in the thick of what’s expected to be Gaetz and Boebert’s drive to either impeach Joe Biden or remove Speaker Kevin McCarthy. There’s a good chance that their remarks will have news value well beyond the confines of La Plata County, so hopefully the party’s exclusion of the Herald will motivate other outlets to make the trip to Durango to cover the event (we recommend staying at the Strater Hotel).
It’s the age-old story: all criticism of the media is not created equal. Democrats get upset when the media doesn’t report the facts, and Republicans get upset when the media does report the facts. Journalists should be receptive to critique of the former, but proud of the howling from Republicans over the latter.