By Mike Van Meter
Hello. My name is Mike, and I'm a recovering newspaperman.
The day I first spoke those words in February 2000, the joke may have been on me. It had been more than a year since I left The Bulletin, I was working half-time at Central Oregon Community College, toiling away for a dot-com (dreams of stock options glittered in our eyes for all of three months) and writing poetry. Poetry is when you translate the profound into short sentences and four-letter words. Good poetry, like good journalism, stems from seeing things no one else can see, hearing things no one else can hear, touching things no one else has touched and then bleeding all over a piece of paper.
Funny thing is, I wasn't seeing very well at all. Yes, I was speaking to a roomful of fellow writers, and yes, I was a recovering newspaperman -- but without knowing it I'd probably fallen off the wagon.
That's addiction for you. My heart and blood is full of passion and fire and tears and a love for the truth. When I do it well, readers know for themselves passion and fire and tears and love for the truth. That's journalism. That's my addiction.
The Bend Bugle and publisher Spencer Dahl are my new enablers. For more than two years bend.com has been Barney Lerten's enabler. Now we're rounding up a crew of fellow addicts to publish a newspaper. Today's edition, reflecting in great measure the best of bend.com, marks the first issue of what we believe will be many.
After 21 years in the profession I don't want a cure. I want more.
The Bugle is dedicated to the premise that readers want more -- that independent, professional journalism is vital to community and livability in a free society. Our positioning statement, published with the July 19th announcement of this print rollout, reads: "Independent, Professional Journalism with Integrity at its Core."
It's one of those lofty statements that sounds like something you'd read aloud at church. That tone is no coincidence: There is a huge element of faith in what journalists do. We fly without a net while making a point of looking down -- a feat not dissimilar to Peter trying to walk across the water to hang out with Jesus.
The U.S. Constitution implicitly recognizes some cosmic link between faith and journalism -- both freedom of/from religion and freedom of the press are set out in the 1st Amendment. Many of the laws regarding the press, particularly in Oregon, give journalists protections beyond those afforded doctors, lawyers or clergy. Early in my career two circuit court judges made a point both inside and outside their courtrooms affirming my contention, shared by my employer, that Oregon's press shield cannot be pierced in any conventional proceeding.
That great freedom leaves the Bugle and other news organizations with great responsibility. We have to find out the truth as best we can, be aware of our biases and make sure they don't color our stories, then without flinching print those stories. All of this must be done while realizing that we're human -- that we can and do slip off the tightrope, that there is no net and that the ground looks to be a long, long ways away.
The Bugle can make only simple promises: That as fellow human
beings we will dedicate ourselves religiously to a task that's
scary. We will work independently and truthfully. When we sink
into the water up to our hips we'll call for help.
Then we'll do it again next week.
After all, we want more. We think you will too.