Role of newspapers
Feb 28, 2012 | 916 views | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Given the story that broke last week (for anyone who hasn’t heard, there’s a petition circulating the county to repeal prohibition), now seems like as good a time as any to remember the role news agencies play– relaying information.

Sure, that entails a variety of functions. Sometimes it’s as a guardian, informing the public of what governmental or private entities are doing and how it may have an impact. Sometimes it’s more informal, what we typically refer to as “fluff.”

But first and foremost, whatever information news agencies relay to their audience, we have to remain impartial.

Is it a problem?

The short answer, sure.

There are times when it’s difficult being a neutral observer. We sit through meetings and don’t always like what we hear, or talk to individuals with views that oppose our own. But a reporter’s job is not to tell you what they think. A newspaper’s role in a community is to provide you with as much of the information as possible so the readers can decide for themselves.

For the most part, we tend to shy away from becoming too involved. It’s a difficult balance to keep personal interests and professional objectivity in check. But having personal gain in the game can make it too tempting to skew a story. Unfortunately, that’s something the media gets accused of far too much. Sometimes it’s deserved. Sometimes not. But any agency or staff member in the position to gain from a particular outcome opens themselves to scrutiny.

Even though it’s different for every outlet, most news organizations have a list of do’s and don’ts. We restrict what boards and offices we can take part in, and in some cases what organizations we can join. It’s largely self-imposed.

But back to the matter at hand.

Personally, I’ve been in journalism for 11 years. In that time I survived two wet votes in a nearby county (and, yes, surviving felt like the right choice of words). Some were for it, some opposed it. It’s not a subject to be taken lightly. Repealing prohibition is something likely to change any community. How much depends on the people there.

Our job isn’t to tell anyone to be in favor of or against repealing prohibition. That’s a personal choice for each of us. We welcome reader opinions here on the editorial page in the form of letters to the editor, but– as someone who once had to sort through more than two dozen letters a week– we do ask everyone to bear in mind that letters are printed as they are received and as space permits.

And I hope in the coming weeks everyone will remember this is a community. Sometimes we disagree on the direction, but we’re all still in the same boat.
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