Stand for Something: The Longmont Observer

Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes

“Where are you from?” is a question I’ve never known how to answer. I’ve had 24 different addresses that I remember, and depending on the context I might give different responses.

I went to high school in Indiana. Most of my family lives in the Midwest. The happiest month of my life was in Bartow, West Virginia. The longest I’ve lived in one place was Wisconsin. ‘Home’ is some combination of wherever my family is getting together for the holidays and Longmont.

Now that I’m an adult and the internet has granted me the ability to stay in touch with people beyond living near them, I’ve realized a few ways that being such a transient has made me different. I’m more comfortable than most with the notion that friendships are about more than just the relationship between two people. They are often accidents of living in a place and the small circumstances which result in meeting. No matter how close the bond may seem between two people in close proximity, distance can make the heart more apathetic.

The impermanence of my friendships meant I never understood how to build a network. And it meant that I rarely came to see the value of a place, of a community. With a few exceptions, I remember most of the places I’ve lived as being interchangeable streets and buildings, incidentally occupied by a few people I got along with. Places on the way to other places. It’s very easy to leave when you don’t see your town as having an identity of its own.

Longmont is a city with people I am connected to, yes, but it’s a place with history, identity and culture of its own. It has a feel, a texture. Some of it is new, dynamic and high tech. Some of it is very old, traditional small town. I love it all. Things happen here. People want to come here. I want to stay here.

I don’t know if Longmont is objectively exceptional, but for just the second time in my life it feels that way to me. What gives a place like Longmont it’s robustness is the authenticity and accessibility of the communities in it. Maybe it’s the number of recent transplants, but the people of this city are overwhelmingly friendly and happy to have you join them. There’s the weekend morning group at the dog park, primarily consisting of people 30+ years my senior. There are my friends I play board games with. The owners of my favorite bar, who have helped me know for the first time in my life what it feels like to be a regular. To be known.

Shakeel moderating McCormick/Buck debate (Photo by Rick Brennan/ Longmont Observer)

The most important group I’ve been welcomed to is The Longmont Observer. I met Scott Converse, our publisher, on a whim with a vague, half-baked idea for a column. I mostly just wanted an outlet for my feelings on politics. For the first couple months, I turned in my weekly column without ever meeting anyone else. But when I finally did, I was enraptured by the goodness of the people who make this newspaper possible. They earnestly believe that providing a source for reliable, local news that informs the community makes this a better city than a news organization that trades fear for clicks. 

The Longmont Observer is the sort of institution that builds a community. It provides a venue for information to be shared, for subcommunities and businesses to announce themselves. It’s an impartial venue for the finding of facts about our community, disseminating information that impacts us all whether we’re paying attention or not. It amplifies those parts of us which are good and calls our attention to those parts which are not.

Transparency about the pay of city employees (with a new edition in early 2019). Consistent, detailed reporting on city council. Giving a voice to the voiceless. A Congressional debate. Capturing the wonder of a child. These things wouldn’t have happened without the Observer, and we would be a poorer place without them.

But the Observer needs your help. We cannot continue as we are right now — functioning on the love volunteers have for this city. Over the past year, sponsorships and member donations have created a small reserve, enough that we now have an office. We can afford that office for a year.

What we cannot afford is to ask volunteers to publish higher quality journalism than a vulture capital firm from New York pretending to be a local newspaper. We cannot afford to let one of this city’s strongest community-building assets be an unpaid labor of love for our editor-in-chief. We cannot afford to have our government go unmonitored because a journalist’s paying job won’t reschedule their hours.

We get leads for really important stories all the time. I’m currently sitting on leads about the hypocrisy of a powerful politician, accessibility to healthcare in the city and outsourcing of an important city function. A full-time reporter could’ve already determined if they were credible. I don’t know when I’ll have the time to get to them.

We want to give you more. We want to follow-up on why there are still no silent railroad crossings in Longmont despite $2.2 million dollars in allocated spending. We want to host debates for every election that covers the city, from city council primaries to the 2020 United States Senate. Longmont needs an environmental beat to cover efforts to protect prairie dogs and how the oil and gas industry impacts the city. We want to call attention to community groups that are making this a great place to live. And now that Longmont has opened the door to the marijuana industry, what’re the impacts?

But we need your help. We know that the important stories are out there, the stories that you need to read. To do justice to those stories, to track down our leads, to interview the right government officials and file all the necessary public information requests. Those things take the time and sustained, undivided focus of professional reporters and editors. That’s the sort of newsroom that Longmont deserves. We can build it, together.

How much do you value the Longmont Observer?

As Longmont’s only nonprofit newsroom, our only vested interest is to supply you with quality, nonpartisan, community-driven, Longmont-focused journalism. But, we need your help. We depend on our members to help us report Longmont news and to keep our journalism available and accessible by all. If you value what we do at the Longmont Observer, please show us with your support. 

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