All of us can suffer from hoof and mouth disease from time to time. We speak before having chewed over our words or don’t even think before we spew them out.
A person made a comment to me last week which got me to thinking. When I first became a journalist, I wanted to change the world. I wanted to right every wrong, expose every act of corruption and I wanted justice to be fair and equal. I also thought a newspaper job would be glamorous. Yes, I was young and delusional.
I learned really quickly that you have to have all your t’s crossed and your i’s dotted, and it’s not as easy as you think to bring some things to light. It all takes time. The wheels of justice sometimes turn slow.
This particular person made a comment on the news we have been covering lately. After thinking about it I had to question this person’s right and wrong compass. But it’s not the first time I have had people take up for someone who was doing something wrong. They say something like, they are “good people”.
Well, good people do wrong things all of the time. I like to use this example. If one of your children happened to go to prison, you would still love them but that would not mean what they did to get put in prison, was any less wrong. Same thing with friends. You support them, you still love them but you do not condone wrongdoing. If you do, then perhaps you need to do a checkup on your own condition.
Sadly, that is the state of affairs these days. We are just doing our jobs and it needs to be understood that it’s not a vendetta, it’s bringing wrong to light and trying to right a wrong. Entities use your tax monies. Does it not bother you when proper procedures are not followed involving your money, or when that money is not spent wisely? It should.
In another community, we conducted a very lengthy investigation into suspected embezzlement of a school superintendent. He seemed like a good guy and we had no idea the accusation would end up being true. Once we brought everything to light, $40,000 a year had been embezzled from a program for several years. Once investigators got involved, other issues also came to light. The superintendent was indicted and convicted. His friends and family were not happy with us but that didn’t change what was done. Even after being convicted, some people just couldn’t accept that wrong was done by this person.
Good people can end up on the wrong track. They can do things they shouldn’t and elected officials can let the power of the position go to their head. It happens all the time and not just here.
We should not be burying our heads in the sand and looking the other way. We should be bringing these things to the light and at the newspaper that is part of our job. I have always said your friends and enemies change on a weekly basis depending on what’s in the paper that week. It just comes with the territory.
People, including elected officials, will try to use you to hide the truth by sending you down another path or flat out lying. You see we do not create the news, we just report it. So if there is nothing going on, it wouldn’t be published. Government should be transparent.
I don’t feel the need to defend what we do, but do hope some understand. As the watchdog and interpreter of public issues and events, those of us who are called the fourth estate at times, have a special role in society. Democracy cannot exist in the absence of the press because it is based on popular will and opinion, and depends on the public’s awareness and knowledge. We promote and propagate public awareness and are keenly aware of our responsibility to the public.
The right to information is inherent in democratic functioning and a pre-condition for good governance. Government should be transparent and accountable to minimize corruption and inefficiency. If we bury our heads in the sand, or turn a blind eye to wrong and corruption, we have not done our jobs and are not trustworthy.
Citizens should demand responsible practices from government and fight against corruption. It doesn’t matter if you are friend or foe, or if this particular person is what you consider a wonderful role model. We should think and rethink before we open our mouths to condone a person’s actions which are questionable.
My being a minister sometimes conflicts with my being a journalist. I try to not be at odds with people but in the newspaper world, you can’t really avoid it all-together. It is during those times I must put myself out of the equation and ask the journalistic question “Is this in the public’s best interest to know?” Sometimes it doesn’t matter, but when an entity or its representatives are out of control, then it definitely is something the public has a right to know about.
VICTORIA SIMMONS is an author, columnist, motivational speaker, minister and publisher of The Georgia Post/Byron Buzz. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org