Changes Are Happening at FāVS and It’s a Good Thing
Editor’s Note July 21: In light of recent events, FāVS News has suspended its relationship with Steve Smith as managing editor and columnist, pending further developments.
Commentary by Steven A. Smith | FāVS News
My retirement ended last week.
I left the newspaper business in 2008 and then spent 10 years teaching journalism at the University of Idaho, a wonderful second career.
I retired from UI in 2020 at age 70, and immediately began contributing weekly columns to FāVS. I recently wrote about three years of column writing.
But all things change, and that adage applies to both FāVS and to me.
Earlier this year, the FāVS board of trustees began working on a new strategic plan. That work continues, but a few months ago, as part of that process, we retired Spokane FāVS and became FāVS News.
The new name carries considerable significance for us. We want to become the essential digital site for news of religion, faith and values in the Inland Northwest, now extending our reach to Pullman and Moscow.
We have a strong staff of reporters, columnists and freelance writers. But the staff is not big enough to meet the news demands required to meet our goals. And our organizational structure was not built for such an effort.
So, my retirement ends.
My New Role
Last week, the FāVS News board voted to name me managing editor, responsible for assigning and editing our news report, and also hiring and training additional staff. I had served on the board for more than two years, but now leave to take this position. The fact board members voted unanimously for my appointment is a singular honor and I am grateful.
In my new role, I will be working closely with Cassy Benefield whose title becomes associate editor. She will serve as production editor, posting content to the site, managing our calendars and so on. And she will continue to write and report, a strength we do not want to lose.
I will report to FāVS Executive Director Tracy Simmons who will now focus on implementing our strategic plan and developing marketing and promotional programs to grow audience and revenue.
In recent years, FāVS has developed some terrific partnerships. Content we produce is shared to several media organizations in the region. And we have access to news produced by those organizations. Developing additional partnerships remains an important goal.
But the key to our growth is development of that robust daily news report. And that is the job now assigned to me.
From Newspapers to Online Journalism
I spent more than 40 years in the news business, more than 25 years as a senior news manager, mostly in newspapers. Although I worked in organizations that helped pioneer online journalism, those were still print products.
Until recent years, it was assumed old-time print guys like me were not suited to leading digital sites. But that attitude is changing, has changed.
As reported in a recent story in Editor & Publisher, older news veterans are coming out of retirement to help lead digital news operations because they understand how to create content. And content drives traffic to all news organizations, new or old, print, broadcast or digital.
So, for me, it is back to work after three years.
In a communication to our writing staff this week I updated our writer’s guide, outlining again (and expanding) the journalism standards we intend to meet here. Some of those standards are worth repeating.
In our reporting and writing:
- Anything in quotation marks must be a direct and precise quotation. If there is doubt, paraphrase.
- Sources must be identified clearly using names, titles and other identifying information, Consult the AP Style Guide for titles and abbreviations.
- Sources are not allowed to review stories or review or edit their quotes. Writers may contact sources only to confirm facts and clarify uncertainties.
- FāVS News does not permit the use of anonymous sources except in extraordinary cases and approved by the managing editor in advance.
- Facts that are not common knowledge must be attributed to a source. Link to websites and PDFs when possible.
- Social media platforms, such as TikTok, are not acceptable sources. Wikipedia is not an acceptable source.
And this is most important: FāVS News is non-sectarian. All denominations and theologies are treated with equal respect. News and feature stores are not to proselytize for any church or theology. Columnists have somewhat more leeway, but columns cannot be sermons or direct appeals to join a particular church.
And this: FāVS News adheres to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.
A personal note. Regular readers of my column know that I identify as an atheist. How, you might ask, can an atheist lead a news organization focused on news of faith and values?
I believe my status as a non-believer is a positive. It will be hard to argue I am biased in favor of any given church or theology. But I pledge to treat all theologies, religions and positive value systems with respect.
There is much work to be done with the new FāVS News. And there will be missteps before we smooth out or news operations.
If you have questions or concerns or story suggestions, please contact me at email@example.com.
I will respond quickly.
And, tell your friends we are here.
Steven A. Smith is clinical associate professor emeritus in the School of Journalism and Mass Media at the University of Idaho having retired from full-time teaching at the end of May 2020. He writes a weekly opinion column. Smith is former editor of The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington. As editor, Smith supervised all news and editorial operations on all platforms until his resignation in October 2008. Prior to joining The Spokesman-Review, Smith was editor for two years at the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon, and was for five years editor and vice president of The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Newspaper Management Center Advanced Executive Program and a mid-career development program at Duke University. He holds an M.A. in communication from The Ohio State University where he was a Kiplinger Fellow, and a B.S. in journalism from the University of Oregon.