OUR VIEW: Awards inspire us, but our real work is for Enterprise readers

Every day at the Enterprise, we aim for journalistic excellence.

Being small, I say often, is no excuse for being bad.

Our goals are to give you and the community the best community news possible. We want to be accurate. We want to be fair. We want to be trusted.

Some days we do better than others, but then we get professional news that spurs us to try even harder.

Not long ago, the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association announced the results of the annual journalistic competition. The Enterprise competes against weekly newspapers of all sizes from all across Oregon.

For the first time, the Enterprise was awarded the sweepstakes honor among all Oregon weeklies. That’s given to the newspaper that overall scores the most for awards in several categories of coverage.

So what?

As in any profession, awards are, well, rewarding.

They don’t change what we do for Malheur County. And we certainly don’t deploy our standards in chase of more plaques for our front office wall.

But those awards are telling for you, the reader.

Consider such awards to be a kind of peer review. Other journalists look at the work done over the course of the year. They are looking to honor the best work as examples for the rest of the profession of outstanding journalism.

We hope you and others in the community share in the pride of having one of the best weekly newspapers in Oregon. This is, really, your newspaper. And in the past it has won regional and national honors, which says our team is doing some of the very best work in the country for an outfit our size.

But I hope you do more than share the pride.

I hope the awards give you increased confidence that what we’re delivering at the Enterprise is no ordinary news product. You can have faith that our work is vetted for professional standards. It’s not quite the same as the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, but those awards tell you that you are, indeed, receiving news from a professional team that does adhere to high standards.

That’s important to each of us at the Enterprise in this era of “fake news.” Across the U.S., people are wondering where to turn for accurate news. All too often, as a country, we are reading dubious websites with questionable ethics because their work seems to be journalism. More often than not, that work is driven by an agenda not revealed to readers.

Recently, the New York Times reported on an explosion in websites that sound like news organizations. In truth, the report said, the websites will put up stories that someone pays them to publish. It’s no more than a paid press release. And when you see news organizations publishing press releases, that means no one in the outfit questioned the information or did any original reporting. All they did was type. That’s not journalism.

And the honors that have flowed to the Enterprise aren’t accidental. I reviewed the record since my family bought the Enterprise five years ago.

Every single journalist who has worked for us has won. That includes our summer interns, and that’s impressive to me. Those interns come here to sharpen their journalism skills. That they also earn awards signals that they paid attention, that they absorbed our drive for excellence.

One common factor in those awards in recent years has been Pat Caldwell, our senior reporter. Pat, a long-time newsman and a veteran too, each year gets first-place honors for his work for the Enterprise – and for you. He is one reason the Enterprise can, week in and week out, deliver in-depth and probing news coverage that no other local news organization will undertake.

As I said, we’re not in this for the awards. But when your peers let you know that the work you’re doing measures up to the very best in the business, that’s a good day at the office. It’s also a good reason to keep up our hard work to give Malheur County the kind of journalism that not only wins awards but truly serves the needs of readers.

Les Zaitz is editor and publisher of the Enterprise. Email: [email protected].

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