The world doesn’t see Rifle as we do
The city of Rifle seems to be getting in the news a lot lately.Big-city newspapers are coming in and writing about us. The L.A. Times did a story this winter. The Rocky Mountain News just dedicated a good chunk of a page to Rifle. Next week, there’s a rumor the Associated Press is coming to town to let the world know about our little town.But the reasons for this coverage seem to be based more on the media’s perception of Rifle than what’s actually going on here.In other words, media outlets see that other media are doing stories on Rifle – so they’re jumping on the bandwagon. If they’re doing stories on Rifle, then we need to do stories on Rifle, right?
It’s odd – especially as the editor of Rifle’s small-town, weekly newspaper – to observe this phenomenon from the inside. There are certainly an endless supply of stories here – every week, I have to decide what stories to run and what stories to hold back. But these papers aren’t writing about Skip’s cool vintage car collection like we do, or that the Rifle Fire Department has just turned 100. They write about the sensational Rifle – the Rifle that may exist in a far-away editor’s mind but not in living here every day.I’ll give you a couple examples. The L.A. Times did a well-written story recently about Rifle’s booming natural gas industry. It was well done, but it’s not anything we don’t know about already by living here, watching rigs sprout up and gas industry trucks scoot around. On a national and world scale, it’s news. There’s valuable energy to tap into all around Rifle. Does that affect me on a daily basis? It does in a negative way if I don’t own my mineral rights. It’s a different story if I do. With the L.A. Times’ help, now people in southern California know this as well. But life still rolls along here in Rifle the same as it has for generations, as real estate prices and population figures climb.At the end of February, a girl beat up another girl – badly – at Rifle High. We covered the incident in the local paper. One of the girls was Latina, the other Anglo. The fight was reportedly based on ethnic slurs spat back and forth, and on rising tensions at area schools because of our almost 50-50 Latino/Anglo school populations.
Since then, we have learned the fight also had a lot to do about testosterone, hormones, immaturity and emotions. This is not the first school fight that’s occurred, and it won’t be the last. But since then, the Rocky Mountain News has written a big exposé about Rifle’s ethnic rift, as if this is the first fight in a school hallway that has ever occurred. You’d think we’re deep in drive-by land, all afraid of each other. On my way to work this morning, a slew of giant gas industry trucks rolled by my house as I turned to get on the highway. When I got to work, I saw an empty parking space, where four adult men – who happened to be Latino – were standing. I waved and smiled, indicating I’d like to wedge my car into the space, and they moved out of the way for me.
When I got out, I walked by them, saying, “Hola!” They all smiled and said, “Hola!” back to me. Yes, the gas industry is here in force, and many people of all types are moving to town, but life goes on at a pretty steady pace. And unlike what you may have heard or read, we’re doing just fine. Carrie Click is the editor and general manager of The Citizen Telegram, citizentelegram.com. She doesn’t envy anyone who becomes the subject of an exaggerated, sensationalized news story. Carrie can be reached at 384-9170, email@example.com.
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