Bobbie Coray describes the online news site she’s managed for the Bear Lake area the past nine years as “citizen journalism,” but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t played a role very similar to a traditional news provider.
“It isn’t a newsletter, and it isn’t really a newspaper. What do you call this thing?” she wondered aloud on Monday after announcing she’s turning over the reins of the Rich Civic Times to a new editor this month. “This has been an entirely volunteer effort. No one was ever paid.”
Coray started The Rich Civic Times in 2012 after the closure of The Rich County Times, a traditional print newspaper that she had done government reporting for for about four years after she and her husband, Chris, retired and moved to Garden City from Cache Valley in the early 2000s.
“Printing costs went crazy and they couldn’t keep it up,” she said of longtime owners Gary and Amber McKee. “I am absolutely concerned that it’s getting harder and harder to publish a newspaper, and newspapers are important to keep. I can get real patriotic about this, because I think officials in Garden City, Rich County and the school district all did a better job because we (both The Rich County Times and The Rich Civic Times) were there reporting on it.”
Many Cache Valley residents know the Corays from the high-profile positions both held in the valley over the years. Bobbie was the economic development director for Cache County during the 1980s and went on to become the executive director of the Cache Chamber of Commerce. Chris, who died in 2017, was a Utah State University math professor who accomplished the rare feat of getting elected to the Cache County Council as a Democrat in 1990.
Bobbie also tried her hand at politics, running an unsuccessful campaign as a Democrat in 1994 against longtime 1st Congressional District Rep. Jim Hansen.
Despite her political leanings, Coray said she believes she was able to remain objective in her roles as an editor and reporter, and she said members of the community have complimented her on this. She acknowledged, however, that it has not always been easy to stand apart as a journalist in a tight-knit community like Bear Lake.
“Writing for a very small area — I think there is less than 2,000 people in Rich County — can be difficult,” she said. “You know everybody, and if you’re doing government reporting, you’re sometimes doing some investigative stuff. It’s very different than in Cache Valley.”
Coray’s replacement, 55-year Garden City resident Bess Huefner, recognizes this challenge but says she hopes to do what she can with the help of other locals to keep the community informed.
“It won’t be the same. I’ve lived in the community 55 years, so I know a bit of the cultural flavor,” Huefner said. “Bobbie brought a breath of fresh air to the community, got us out of our doldrums. I hope to work with the regional commission, Bear Lake Watch and the Rich County Commission so we can all serve the community with information.”
Bear Lake Watch is a private organization devoted to preserving the beauty and recreational opportunities at Bear Lake. The Bear Lake Regional Commission is a public body concerned with the lake and its surroundings.
Huefner, who like Coray will be volunteering her time, said taking charge of the community news source is not something she sought out.
“Bobbie and the web designer said, Bess, we think you can do this. So I’ll give it my best shot,” she said.
Coray described Huefner, a former Garden City Council member, as “that person who is always in the middle of everything, is always prepared, and does it. She’s going to be great.”
Coray is leaving Garden City after getting a purchase offer on her cabin that she “couldn’t refuse.”
She will now divide her time between condominiums she owns in North Logan and San Jose del Cabo in the Baja Peninsula, where she is staying currently.
“I’m actually doing a column for a local magazine,” she said. “It’s about what it’s like being an intrepid 75-year-old widow in Mexico.”