Les Zaitz, editor and CEO, Salem Reporter (Photo by David Zaitz)

In its first year, Salem Reporter delivered on its promise to the community.

That’s my assessment as I pause to reflect on our anniversary.

We promised in-depth news coverage.

Salem Reporter delivered.

You got Rachel Alexander’s deep look at Salem’s poorest schools.

Troy Brynelson reported on his tough examination of over-budget city construction spending.

Aubrey Wieber went behind the political curtains to discover what really killed the controversial cap-and-trade legislation.

And Saphara Harrell introduced you to people making a difference in Salem.

We promised accuracy.

Salem Reporter delivered.

Our team follows a rigorous fact-checking protocol unmatched by most media outlets. When we erred, we didn’t duck. We fixed factual errors promptly.

We promised you could trust us.

Salem Reporter delivered.

We reported the news without regard to party or interest. We cared not a whit whether someone was a liberal or conservative. We didn’t care if someone was considered powerful. We reported the news as objectively as humans can.

For me, Salem Reporter serves a vital and growing role in Salem.

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That’s because of what’s happening to us as a country. People seem to argue more, agree less, and consider it almost a weakness to find compromise. Too many rely on poor sources of information to base their decisions and judgments.

And far too often, choices are colored by anger – anger at politicians we don’t like, anger at government policies we oppose, anger at solutions that don’t serve us. And that anger seems too often driven by misinformation.

At Salem Reporter, we can’t change the national dialogue. We can, though, help in a modest way to build civility and progress among the people of Salem. We do that best, in my view, by giving people like you a trusted source of local information.

By providing accurate information, I believe local people can make better decisions on behalf of the community. We can debate issues, but let’s debate from a common understanding of the facts, whether it’s school performance or Salem’s homeless population.

The team of reporters at Salem Reporter is deeply devoted to that concept. They care about the truth, about honestly reflecting Salem’s needs and issues. They get out of the office, sit through hours of meetings, and reach out to sources in every corner of the community.

In the past year, we expanded our news staff. We joined in the Oregon Capital Bureau, giving Salem Reporter readers smart coverage of state politics in service to the reader – not those in power. We brought back for the community the work of Mary Louise VanNatta, taking you to event upon event that represents Salem’s passion for generosity.

There is more we can do, that we want to do. We’ll grow as our support in the community grows.

The landscape for the news profession remains profoundly in flux.

In the end, it is interested, caring citizens supporting local news who will decide what kind of information the community gets. As Salem Reporter has expanded, we watched other news operations around the country slim down or go dark entirely. Change is likely ahead for Salem’s oldest news source, the Statesman Journal. The newspaper’s owner, Gannett, plans to merge with another major national company in a deal that counts on cutting costs by millions. What that means for Salem is unclear, but the need for locally-run, locally-owned news sources grows more vital by the day.

And you are key to that. So, in the year ahead, here’s how you can help.

Survey: We’ll be surveying readers about what they like and what they want from Salem Reporter. But don’t wait if you have a burning desire to share ideas and suggestions. Shoot me an email ([email protected]).

Visibility: If you see a story that others might want to read, share a link on your Facebook, Twitter or other channels or through your email. You are, after all, our best reference.

Recruit: If each subscriber would round up just one friend, neighbor, relative or business associate to subscribe, we could double our footprint overnight. Be our marketing asset. In the next week, use your influence to round up just one new subscriber for Salem Reporter.

Advertise: If you are a Salem business, now’s the time to turn to Salem Reporter for marketing. We have an audience keenly focused on the community. Our readers will pay attention to businesses that pay attention to Salem. Use Salem Reporter to make that connection.

As we grow and strengthen, our service to Salem will grow. We don’t have distant corporate owners demanding high profits. We don’t have high overhead. Larry Tokarski, our principal founder and president of Mountain West Investment Corp., has stayed true to his commitment to stay out of news decisions.

And in the end, that’s what’s most important to me, as editor and a founder of Salem Reporter. This is great community with tremendous opportunities. We also have significant challenges. The more you know, I’m persuaded, the more you can have a say and not feel shuffled to the back benches.

More reporting on local government means you will have a clearer idea of where your tax money is going. You can’t question what you don’t know.

More reporting on public officials means you will better judge who’s serving you in office. You can decide who should stay – and who should go.

More reporting on schools means you will know how the community’s kids are doing. You can better support your schools - or insist on improvements.

And more reporting on Salem’s charities means you will know more about who is meeting local needs. You can better decide when to write a donation check – and to what group it should go.

In the year ahead, we will continue to exhibit the independence so vital to your trust. As I’ve explained before, we favor no interest and fear no authority. We represent you, the Salem citizen, first and always. For by empowering you, we help create a better community for all.

We appreciate, deeply, the tremendous response and support of you and others across the city.

Humbly, we thank each of you.

Les Zaitz, editor and CEO

What would you like Salem Reporter to cover? What do you suggest to let more people know of our work? Email: [email protected]