Editor’s note: I’m giving Jack a turn again this week.

“Fake news” is taken to mean one thing at the national level, but something quite different at the local level.

When any newspaper values its reputation, it does not report rumor as news. It uses reliable sources and it verifies them. A reliable news source is someone who not only claims to know, but is in a position to know, and has established trust with the newspaper. And verifying that news source’s information means, whenever possible, finding a second news source, independent from the first, that is just as reliable.

Social media are fast, but they do not do this. They do not expend the time and energy necessary to ferret out and verify facts. What social media reports as “news” is too-often rumor, assumption and surmise on which conspiracy theories thrive.

Social media is sometimes correct, sometime wrong, and almost always incomplete and unverified. The problem is, when you read it you don’t know what you’re getting because social media writers have no out-front and ongoing reputations to protect. That’s why they are not reliable. “I heard ... ” and “My friend saw ... ” don’t cut it.

If we on the Hill relied on social media for our local news, we would not have known that Idyllwild Fire Protection District had no records of what were supposed to be annual audits through a five-year period (Town Crier: Sept. 25, 2008), or that IFPD was purposefully nontransparent in its attempt to set up a Joint Powers Authority with the City of San Jacinto (TC: July 7, 2016). And we wouldn’t know that — exactly the opposite of what was claimed — IFPD gets a much higher percentage of the 1-percent property tax of property owners within its district than County Fire does from property owners in Pine Cove or Zone 3 (TC: Nov. 3 & 10, 2016).

And we also would not have learned the details of the Riverside County Grand Jury’s findings and recommendations as to certain, serious IFPD personnel issues that the IFPD Board of Commissioners thereafter rejected (TC: July 3 and 10, Sep. 4, 2014).

If social media were our news source, we would not have known that the former general manager of Idyllwild Water District was lying about his efforts to obtain water certifications from the State Water Resources Control Board (TC: Aug. 18 and 25, 2016). We wouldn’t have known the factual details, as viewed from both sides, of the ongoing dispute IWD and Pine Cove Water District were having with the fledgling Idyllwild Charter High School (TC: Dec. 16, 1999). And, most recently, we would have thought there was a serious fire in Pine Cove on Wednesday, Aug. 15, when there wasn’t.

Here on the Hill, we have nine boards of public agencies, funded by taxpayers’ dollars, making decisions and recommendations as to how to spend even more of our tax monies. These nine boards are monitored by nobody but the Town Crier.

This is a major reason why Becky and I are making an effort to keep the Town Crier informing for our community long after our retirement. The Membership Model, which our readers both on and off the Hill are supporting so strongly, is the key factor in making that happen. Through that model, the TC will be a viable enterprise with fully-paid employees that will attract new, younger-than-me publishers to carry on the duty of keeping our community, including our extended off-Hill community, informed with verified news and information.

This way, as long as our readers really want a reliable local newspaper, they can have one.

Jack Clark

Co-publisher and general counsel

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