Local columns add to community dialogue
Over the past few weeks we have learned of the resignation of some of the local contributing columnists. Like you, I read their columns. Over time, each columnist finds their voice and their audience. As I now return from vacation time with family, I reflected on how the family of columnists operated in a loose fashion to keep our community engaged in itself.
The role of a daily local paper is to provide, in part, the sense of relevance for our lives in reference to a larger world. What part do we play in the political life of our country? How do we fare in comparison to other communities in the education we deliver to our students regardless of their age? It’s one thing to read national statistics, and quite another to hear from those who have experience and live among us. That is what I find compelling about those who put their thoughts on paper in the Opinion columns and guest columns.
We have a new publisher, Rynni Henderson, whom I hope to meet this week. The publisher is responsible to make the paper financially successful. The managing editor, Sylvia Ulloa, is responsible for the content of the paper. Both women have the same goal, keep the paper successful. I am simplifying here to make a point. How do the owners of a newspaper keep score? They are looking at the revenue, online subscribers, and paid subscribers. What else?
The Gannett Company is a big business, and it owns the Sun-News. I have admired this company for years. Their positioning statement, local is national. Gannett seeks, according to its website, to be a next-generation media company that empowers communities to connect, act and thrive. They are looking to find out what you think, what you want, what you are doing, the mid-size market is where the action is. We tell them how high school football is trending in our market. They are looking to see if our convention center is busy, whether White Sands is laying people off. They watch us to learn the impact of larger forces on our economy because it impacts their bottom line too. For those of you who feel compelled to write or to act on trends you see in our community and state, consider doing so this year. Become a columnist, even if it is on an occasional basis. I write a column every two weeks. It’s work, yet a discipline that is rewarding.
We cannot change large systems like our governments, local, state and national unless we act. The economy of our state is in trouble. Where we spend our money is important. Our governor is a former DA. It makes sense that she and her close colleagues look at the law enforcement community as an economic engine. It isn’t. Law enforcement requires taxpayer dollars, like education. They are a function of central government. They do not make money, they cost and spend money. If you have ideas on how we can enable entrepreneurs to join our community and thrive, pick up your pen. We need people who create income and jobs in the private sector in our community. Talking about what we do well is necessary for change.
OK, let’s discuss the spaceport. The spaceport is a state facility. The structure of the spaceport is possibly a way we can help this organization accomplish its goals. In 2003, the state of New Mexico Department of Economic Development established a not-for-profit economic development organization called the New Mexico Partnership. It provides a great deal more flexibility that enables staff to do things state offices cannot do to recruit new business to the state. People who want to work in commercial space often are fleeing highly regulated organizations, like government agencies. Long processes, lots of legal requirements cost time and money. There are ways the state has already identified that enable economic development efforts to succeed.
The Albuquerque International Sunport is a public facility, owned by the city of Albuquerque. Over time, the governance of this facility has gone through changes to enable it to retain competitive edge in the airline industry. It is a successful airport, and has lessons to teach us on how to look at the long-term financial stability and success of our spaceport. The airline industry leads the space industry.
There are now 10 licensed spaceports in the U.S. Each is learning from the other. I’d like New Mexico to lead this industry in recruitment of highly desirable launch operators, but we don’t have the incentives available to do this. Incentives go beyond capture funds. They also include recruitment of tenants, good relationships with the business and technical community, and, oh yes, one more thing: access. The inability of us to get the southern road built is a barrier for recruitment. All these problems can be overcome, and ideas combined with will to act and meet goals help move programs.
My column is a science and technology focused column. I have drifted into this realm of publishing for one column only. No one at the Sun-News asked me to encourage new contributors to the paper. Yet, like good things in life, it is fun to work with smart people like Walt Rubel, Sylvia Ulloa, and will be fun, I am sure, to work with Rynni. It is our community, our paper and even the Gannett organization agrees they want value and input.
Pat Hynes works at New Mexico State University for NASA directing the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium. She can be reached at 575-646-6414 or at email@example.com.