“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” – Evelyn Beatrice Hall
A newspaper must be careful not to censor the voice of the people. That being said, the “fourth estate,” or, the voice of the people may at times be unpopular because of the stories we run or the advertisers we sell to.
Just because we do not agree with everything going on in the world, it is still our responsibility as journalists to report those things. The good, the bad, the ugly and topics that may even split a community.
There are many passions, gripes and criticisms that come in on a weekly basis. For a newspaper to do a story so that you don’t have to divulge your name which would associate you to the passions you endorse or you expect us to endorse you, and automatically stand behind you against another individual or party within our community that would be wrong on our part.
Letters to the editor are great way to voice your community passions and most likely you may be able to express your concern or anger or joy in a much more powerful way since it is, your passion.
At this time of year, it is especially challenging to cover the new politicians who are in office. At our publication we choose not to endorse candidates or views or take sides. It is simply quite enough of a task to report as fairly and as objectively as possible, making sure that the words that are spoken, are published.
As to the placement of stories in our newspaper, it is ludicrous to say that because we place one story on Page 3 instead of Page 4 means that we are endorsing, condoning or agreeing with a particular view, opinion or candidate.
Page placement in a newspaper reflects many factors such as space, readability, content and human interest. It does not necessarily mean an endorsement.
Running stories is much like adjusting the temperature in a crowded meeting room. One-third of the people will say it’s too hot, one-third will say it’s too cold and the final third will say, “If you touch that thermostat, we’re leaving.”
That is the risk we run in the business that we are in. People may not agree with all stories written. There may be feeling in your “thoughts out loud” that a story is biased or pointed in some way. The realization is that there is another faction that is really, quite pleased with the story. So… in essence, the anger comes because we have chosen to be impartial and set a goal to let all voices be heard.
It’s misplaced anger. They are not mad at us. They are mad at those with opinions and throw stones at because we have defended a right to have a “say” in matters concerning our community. Just as we would defend anyone’s right to let a voice be heard. Even if it’s a word of disapproval.
The good thing about true journalists is that they are not swayed by the voices of disapproval. They are not influenced by the amount of money invested or threats to take a non-supportive stand. Truth in journalism is the heart of the issue that runs parallel with honoring and upholding free speech. It is, or is supposed to be “the thin black print of integrity.”
Some day we all may need defending. We may need to have someone hear our voice through publication. We would defend that right as we do all others. Whether there is support for us or not. Whether there is an agreement with us or not. We may not agree with a particular stand or for what is stood for, but we do and always will, honor the right to free speech. That thin black line is spelled t-r-u-t-h.
We are heading toward a dangerous time in all things published. People will be personally flooding publications and social media with lies and slander. Some know what they’re doing, others are just lazy journalists who are too lazy to check the authenticity of information before publication.
Now, more than ever, free speech remains a right. Yes that means people have their own right to say what they want. Lies or truth. It is imperative that what is read, what is heard and what is repeated are verified facts. But only if a level of credibility and integrity still mean something in this country.