Longtime readers know the Independent routinely accepts ads that promote religion, atheism, pacifism, veganism, pig roasts, violent movies, peace marches, kickboxing, politicians we've endorsed, and those we've condemned.
Today I re-emphasize a point that the Independent has repeated over the past 17 years: We don't let advertisers impact our stories. Our opinion and news pages are controlled by our editorial staff. Conversely, we don't let our editorial positions dictate who may advertise.
The Independent has almost no litmus test for who may advertise in our paper. About the only ads we reject are those that are deceptive or degrading; those promoting illegal activities; or those coming from clients delinquent on their bills.
I am writing to inform our readers that starting next month, Wal-Mart will place ongoing ads in the Independent. The Arkansas-based chain decided to buy ads after realizing that the rapidly shrinking local daily just does not have the reach it used to enjoy. Wal-Mart also knows that more than four of every five Independent readers (105,000 of our audited readership of 126,000) shopped at one of its nine Pikes Peak-area superstores sometime during the past six months.
Like many of our readers, Independent employees have mixed feelings for Colorado Springs' largest private employer. Some of my colleagues boycott Wal-Mart, due to concerns about its low wage levels, its overdependence on foreign products, and its often-negative impact on locally owned mom-and-pop businesses. Others shop there because of its affordable prices, comprehensive range of goods, 24-7 operating hours, and for the steps the mega-chain has taken to make its operations and vendors more ecologically sound.
Today I want to stress that no matter who places ads, the Independent remains fiercely supportive of local businesses. Big-box chains, are by their very nature, generic. And one of our core missions is to encourage and promote authentic, local, artistic nonprofit and entrepreneurial enterprises. If you would like to weigh in on this decision, please feel free to contact me.
Another issue: Memorial Hospital
The Colorado Springs City Council recently created a blue-ribbon commission to explore the merits of selling, or restructuring its relationship with, city-owned Memorial Hospital. Jay Patel, our business development vice president, has been selected to serve on this commission.
While Jay has no influence on our editorial content, it presents a potential perceived conflict of interest for any newspaper employee to serve on a government commission that's exploring selling a hospital that advertises in that paper. We balance this unease with our desire to encourage everyone at the Independent to give back to our community.
Our compromise: Jay will participate in the Memorial Commission, but we have stipulated that he cannot discuss this civic endeavor with anyone on our news staff. And whenever covering the commission's activities, we will note Jay's involvement.
Save the dates
Come April, there'll be two big days for us — and for the community.
Thursday, April 8: Information on how nonprofits can apply to participate in the Independent's Give! 2010 campaign will be in this edition of the Independent.
Friday, April 16: The Independent is the media sponsor of the fifth annual Fort Carson Town Hall Meeting. For details, see our April 1 edition.
Why I can't miss T.R. Reid at CC tonight
The Independent has always offered health/dental insurance to employees and their dependents. But recently, things have gotten out of hand. Even though we have shopped vigorously, in recent years our total premiums have more than doubled.
This year, I had a case of the hopes. Our current insurer, Humana, tripled its profits last year, to more than $1 billion. While health care inflation is on the rise, its 3.5 percent is still among the lowest levels in a decade — surely we would not see a big premium increase this year.
Bang: Humana has requested a 17 percent rate increase.
Since the Independent seeks to keep employees' share of premium increases in the 5 percent range, that translates to a 25 percent rate spike for the company's contribution. This is not sustainable — nor, we know, is this predicament uncommon among other small, local businesses.
So this month, staff members and I will waste at least 100 hours filing out reams of forms in order to see if we can locate a decent, yet more affordable insurance plan.
Our health insurance system is broken. Americans must accept that this is one area where we can — and must — learn from other nations.
Fortunately for us, T.R. Reid already has done much of the legwork. Reid, a longtime Washington Post journalist and author of The Healing of America: A Quest for Better, Cheaper and Fairer Health Care, has studied how other industrial nations provide better and cheaper health insurance as well as health care.
Join me in welcoming T.R. Reid to town, at 7:30 tonight, Thursday, March 4, at Colorado College's Palmer Hall. The event is free. For details, see 7 Days to Live, or see last week's Q&A with Reid, headlined "Picture of health," under the News tab at csindy.com.
— John Weiss