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To report or not to report?

By Staff | Dec 18, 2013

Small town newspapers play an important role in the everyday life of the people in the communities that they serve. The local paper has a specific duty and often crucial function in properly reporting the facts accurately and fairly when covering the events of the communities. There is always much to report on, whether it’s the return of children to school in the fall, the weather, the closing of a local place of employment, or the controversy which surrounds the governing bodies that control the business of our schools, county, and town meetings.

Often there is difficult, and sometimes disturbing, news that must be told. Whatever the circumstance may be, it becomes not only the job, but the duty of the local reporters to fairly and accurately relay the stories and issues affecting the citizens.

Many of these stories are complicated and require cooperation from all parties involved. Often that is where the controversy starts. It seems even more common when authority is questioned or when there are political power struggles. We as reporters must work within the scope of our authority as employees of the paper. The same should be required from the elected or appointed officials who represent the people.

Truthful information about our communities through fair and unbiased reporting and good editorializing provides the kind of scrutiny that all people in power need, from the federal to the local level. It becomes part of the checks and balance system. It must be that way. What’s crucial though is that all valid views are allowed an equal share of time and access to those doing the reporting. That is a certain way to avoid the bone of contention that favoritism is being played.

The job of reporting can be quite taxing, especially where controversy is involved. So much so that we can question if it is worth it all. But our duty is to the public.

It would be easier to turn a blind eye and fail to report the news, or to report just one side of a story, but that would not be ethical. It would also be morally and maybe even legally wrong, especially when the issues affect the general public. We could even ignore important issues, hoping to avoid disrupting personal relationships with others. We could fail to offer our own perspectives on the happenings within our little communities but no, it doesn’t work like that.

Controversy must be reported and it is our duty to do so. It is also the duty of every citizen within their community to hold officials accountable when controversy arises. We have found that these controversies or small town tussles become so frequent because close-to-home government decisions are so visible and the impact is so immediate. And you can be sure somebody will notice it and not like it. Controversy can be controlled by working well together, not by becoming defensive or elusive. Those tactics only raise eyebrows, and then questions.