Community members are encouraged to let us know what they consider important and newsworthy

It seems knocking the local newspaper is part of the American way of life, no matter the paper, no matter the community.

Recently, there's been a spat of social media criticism of our paper regarding a perceived lack of coverage of the pending Scenic Bike Route for State Highway 27. The criticism is unwarranted as the paper reported on the process a couple times before the recent story about its pending approval. But certainly coverage amount is subjective, thereby such comments are valid, to an extent.

Anytime there are complaints or negative comments about our newspaper, it prompts some reflection, a review of what we're doing. What we endeavor to do is provide interesting and important news and information on a widest swath of topics possible, at least those suitable for a family, community newspaper.

This, of course, includes law activity and emergency news, fires, government news at every level, with a focus on city and county government. We focus on economic news and have weekly news on businesses opening or relocating in the community. We have a listing of meetings and events in every issue, a community bulletin board of sorts that welcomes just about any entity's event. We celebrate our history with weekly pieces from Bowman Museum historian Steve Lent and from our newspaper files. We pride ourselves in excellent school and education coverage. We produce powerful, moving, award-winning features that go to the core of what the community is about. We'd wager that no high school gets more newspaper coverage of their varsity sports teams than the Crook County Cowboys and Cowgirls.

We also take it upon ourselves to promote our countywide community and its events. Unless it's something like the Roundup or the races, the regional media — electronic, broadcast or print — are not going to promote our community events. It's not their objective and not their role. We make it ours.

We have a small, dedicated, overworked staff of three news producers, tasked with covering, writing and photographing all the news, organizing it, then putting on their newspaper designer hats twice a week to produce attractive, smart newspapers. Along with that, they regularly put on their "new media" gloves and post to our website and social media sites. That's a full week.

Fortunately, we have a few correspondents that occasionally help with a story or photo, plus several contributing columnists, from our local government and law enforcement officials to a weekly faith column from various church leaders. We also present a weekly column from our general manager that focuses on business and community events. A very important element of having that small army of contributors is to get various voices and viewpoints in our community paper.

But our biggest partner in producing a quality newspaper is you, the residents of Crook County. A strong community newspaper depends on a symbiotic relationship with its community. In order to best live up to our objectives — being the best news organization that our resources provide — we rely on feedback and insight from our readers and, frankly, our nonreaders. Story ideas, negative or positive comments, please, send them our way. We need them to serve our purpose — and to improve, something we're always striving toward.

Oftentimes, though, we'll get calls or emails from people wanting a specific story done, but they often don't want to go on record, or the story they are pedaling is motivated by self-interest or revenge on a person or place of business. We don't pedal in rumors, or gossip per se, or "report" on a private citizen's alleged "wrong-doings" — we'll leave that to the world of social media — but instead we maintain various filters, such as verification, reliable sources and actual charges. And there's those pesky libel laws that we have to keep in mind.

But even if those calls don't lead directly to a story, they often serve as a catalyst, background information for us toward a story that does eventually come to light.

So please, as the saying goes, help us help you. If you have questions, concerns or story ideas, please shoot us an email. We are always looking to better serve our readers, our customers.

And it's OK to knock us. Sometimes we deserve it, and that's how we'll get better.

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