Originally published April 20, 2015 via WyoFile email to subscribers — Ed.
Dear WyoFile readers,
In February 2008 I joined a small group of experienced Wyoming journalists at the Plains Hotel in Cheyenne for a meeting convened by internet entrepreneur Christopher Findlater.
Our shared concern was the ongoing crisis in journalism — both nationally and in Wyoming — that threatened to disrupt the historical role played by the press as a responsible check on power and politics. Newspapers — even good ones like the Los Angeles Times where I worked for three decades as a national and foreign correspondent before moving back to Wyoming — were crippled by a broken business model and by the unfiltered immediacy of the internet. The first things to disappear when newspapers began cutting reporters and news space were in-depth investigative and public policy stories.
Our goal in Cheyenne that February was to create a serious public policy website that would address the alarming lack of in-depth reporting about Wyoming. The purpose was to supplement — not compete with — the Wyoming press. In keeping with that public service mission, we decided to start out by offering all of our stories free of charge to all Wyoming media.
WyoFile’s beginning was a little chaotic. People struggled at first with our name. (“Did you say ‘Wildfire’?”). It took us some time to come up with a fiscal identity — we are now a tax-exempt non-profit like Wyoming Public Radio and Wyoming PBS television, only without the government subsidies (all our finances can be viewed on our site under About Us).
But seven years now after the launch, I am proud to say that we have built WyoFile into an important state institution that last year was read by more than 200,000 people, and not just in Wyoming. Just as we had hoped, newspapers across the state — from the Gillette News-Record to the Rock Springs Rocket-Miner — regularly reprint our articles.
Our editorial staff is small but first-rate and solidly, passionately Wyoming. Editor Dustin Bleizeffer worked in the Campbell County coal mining district before becoming one of the region’s leading energy writers, respected by industry and environmentalists alike; natural resources writer Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is a rugged outdoorsman who for years edited one of the country’s best weekly newspapers, the Jackson Hole News&Guide; outspoken columnist and former Casper Star-Tribune and Wyoming Tribune Eagle editorial page director Kerry Drake is unsurpassed in his knowledge of state policy and politics; capitol bureau reporter Gregory Nickerson, who grew up in Big Horn, is one of Wyoming’s outstanding young journalists. Our business manager, Guy Padgett, is the former mayor of Casper. Board chairman Anne MacKinnon, is former editor of the Casper Star-Tribune and a leading expert on western water resources.
As I mentioned above, I’m a Lander-based former national and foreign reporter who contributes occasional investigative stories that have included: Wyoming’s role in the Department of Interior royalty scandal; General Electric’s broken promise in the $100 million High Plains Gasification project and its secret funding of a 2009 gubernatorial trip to China; Sen. John Barrasso’s campaign contributions from an obscure Conroe, Texas, pharmacy; and the Two Elk Saga, a case study of a troubled Wyoming energy project.
We are all proud of what we have done to provide the kind of in-depth reporting that makes all of us better informed Wyomingites.
But like any other non-profit, WyoFile still needs your contributions to continue and to improve our work. We are grateful that a number of you stepped forward recently to help us with a project to report on the crisis in child health care on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Reporting on Native American concerns is one of our strengths, along with stories on energy, environment, higher education, workplace safety, culture and gender equality.
But we would like to do more. With your tax-exempt contributions we feel we can take WyoFile to an even higher level. Please give what you can. And when you do donate, please take the time to tell us something about yourself and your interests. Feel free to contact executive director Lorena Garcia (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions. Click here to make your tax deductible donation today.
Thanks and best,