Editorial — “Just the facts, ma’am”

Editorial, Nov. 25, 2015

 

 

There are certain professions that inherently draw
criticism. Lawyers, doctors, preachers,
elected government officials, to name a few. Perhaps no other occupation
receives more criticism than journalism.

 

We can go back as far to the birth of our nation to our
first newspapers. It is truly a treat to read those newspapers. Although those
newspapers have changed in style and page size, the content remains pretty
committed to the news of the day.

 

The Hartford Courant has run continuously since 1794, when
it was a weekly. The history behind the Courant is beyond amazing: George
Washington placed an ad to lease some portions of Mount Vernon; The Courant
published Noah Webster’s Blue-Backed Speller; Thomas Jefferson sued the Courant for libel and lost the case.

 

The newspaper business has changed significantly over the
last 20 years, primarily because of the ubiquity of the internet. Many large
city newspapers have either completely shut down or have been purchased by the competitor. It was quite normal for a
city to have two newspapers; El Paso: The El Paso Times and The Herald-Post;
Dallas: The Dallas Morning News and the Dallas Times-Herald; Houston: The
Houston Chronicle and the Houston Post.

 

Regardless of the changes that have taken place or are
taking place in this industry, the mission of journalism has always been the
same to provide readers with
facts. A news story should never contain editorializing because editorial
content belongs in the editorial section.

 

For those of who are old school, we go the extra mile to get
it right. It’s not just our job, it’s our duty and responsibility to get the
facts right. However, even when the facts are irrefutable , we still get hit by
the critics.

 

Writing for a small newspaper is especially a challenge,
especially if you were born here. Some people are under the illusion that if a
negative incident takes place, that we should simply ignore it and not publish
it. It doesn’t work that way.

 

As difficult as it has sometimes been to publish news that
we know will anger relatives and friends of the wrong-doer, we cannot
self-censor ourselves because that would be more egregious than writing the
story in the first place.

 

As an added safeguard, we at the Advocate record every event
we cover, whether it’s an interview, a meeting, or whatever the subject matter
may be. If a person questions whether he or she said what was quoted or what
transpired in a meeting, they are welcomed to listen to the recording because
the recorder doesn’t lie.

 

In other cases where rumors abound about how an incident happened,
we will not write a word about it until we get all sides. This has already
happened. While some of the information that was available at the time was
accurate, it didn’t represent the complete story. Once we did our due
diligence, sure enough, we uncovered a document that exonerated the person in
question. Had we not taken the extra step to ensure that we had every
piece of evidence for a news story, we may have had to print a story based on
innuendo, and that’s never good.

 

Those of us in the journalism business understand that
criticism comes with the territory. It’s inevitable. We welcome the criticism
and if we’re asked to discuss what went into writing the story, we will oblige.

 

What we will not oblige is an outburst without any logical
reasoning. As I’ve told people who are
unhappy with our newspaper, you have two choices: buy the newspaper or don’t
buy it. We have made every effort to provide a valuable service to our
subscribers and our customers.

 

Finally, if you don’t like a story because you think it’s a
personal attack, then you don’t understand what journalism is all about. It’s
ridiculous to assume that I want to damage someone’s reputation. I don’t have
the time for that.

 

If you get upset or angry with me about a story, instead of
blaming the messenger, you should look at the actions you took in the first
place. My job is to report on the news. If some people don’t like what was
written, I will not lose sleep because I know I have done my job and my
conscience is clear.