A final word
I wanted to begin this column with a quote by a French philosopher whose work I enjoy. Instead, I’m going to slightly alter a line from the animated film “Shrek.” That being said…
“Some of you may be offended, but it’s a sacrifice I am willing to make.”
My time at the Herald has afforded me opportunities to partake in activities, learn about civic processes and meet some of the amazing people in Uinta and Lincoln counties. I will miss working with my colleagues, both within the office and without.
This job has also exposed me to some of the crime, corruption, assorted injustice and misinformation throughout this corner of the Cowboy State Daily… er, scratch that.
I believe it is important for journalists to cover events which make us uncomfortable. I still get slightly nervous when I write about things like political gatherings and bus stop scandals, but these stories are usually the most interesting.
That nervousness is mostly due to the possibility of making a mistake. I record most events to avoid misquoting people, and I make a serious effort to write quotes without removing context. I welcome corrections, and I try to apologize for any mistakes I make.
“How is this offensive?” I hear from the back of my imaginary audience.
Here’s what a few of my harsher critics may not like to hear (or read.) I have mostly ignored those who attempt to discredit my work for supposedly painting them in an unflattering light.
These are not people I have chosen to single out for my own nefarious ends. These are public figures who have involved themselves in, and sometimes created, newsworthy events.
It is my job to cover these events and report how they unfold. If that means quoting politicians joking about lynching people, or writing about their alleged attempts to elicit false accusations from members of a town council, I will do so. That does not constitute gossip, “liberal hearsay” or any other form of biased reporting. What people need to understand is the following.
If you say or do something controversial, especially as an elected official or other prominent member of the public, people like me will write about it. This does not amount to bias or — cover your children’s ears — communism. We attempt to get all perspectives on a story, and we do our best to avoid painting anyone in a story as a villain. Especially at rural papers like the Uinta County Herald and Kemmerer Gazette, most of us have no interest in pushing an agenda.
Attempting to discredit journalists for reporting on wrongdoing has been done before, and is still being done, by corrupt regimes and extreme politicians the world over. This not only silences those who attempt to hold potentially dangerous leaders accountable, but it also makes it more difficult to communicate across party lines.
As citizens lose faith in journalists, political discussion devolves to shouting matches and finds a home in echo chambers. This effect is even visible on opinion pages, where columnists occasionally make jabs at one another while writing with biased language rather than using their medium as an environment for civil debate.
I am not telling you to trust every word you read in newspapers. Look at multiple sources and fact check, especially when you read outrageous claims. Hold reporters accountable, but do not always assume we set out to feed you our own beliefs.
If you are involved in a newsworthy event, do not be afraid to talk to us. Please just don’t tell us we “had better” not name you as an officeholder, especially if that office is relevant to the story.
And, to more directly reiterate the message from my previous column, please do not let your news sources think for you. Inform yourself, empathize with your political opponents as human beings, and most importantly, think.
With that, I bid my friends and critics farewell. This job has been a pleasure, from the anxiety of getting everything onto the server before press time to the thrill of hearing dispatchers give an address on the police scanner.
In approximately three weeks, I will leave the Herald for a world heretofore unknown. I am eager to depart from Evanston, but I will certainly miss those who I have met while working for this charming Wyoming newspaper.