Journalists find out pretty early in their careers that not everyone is going to be happy with everything they write. Those who can't handle that tend to get out of the business pretty quickly, sometimes finding themselves a nice public relations job that pays a lot better anyway.
Those who stay in journalism every so often find themselves in positions where they know that no matter how they write a story, or even whether they write it or not, someone is going to unhappy with it. We run into situations like that from time to time at The Western News - maybe more often than most journalists, even, because of the small size of the community and the lack of anonymity.
Our philosophy of journalism is that stuff happens, and we write about it. People have a right to know what's going on around them, and we provide that service. People have a right to privacy in their own affairs when it's not affecting anyone else, but when things happen in public or involve public institutions, it's news.
When dealing with potentially controversial issues, we try to be fair and leave out our own biases to the extent that that's possible. We do what we can to give opposing viewpoints a chance to be heard and to be sensitive to innocent people who may be unwittingly drawn into the news. But we have to balance that with filling our role in providing the public with the information to which it's entitled. And always, we strive to make sure that the information we print is as accurate as it can be.
It's not easy sometimes. We get requests on a fairly regular basis to keep someone's name out of the sheriff's report or criminal court records, for example. That's something we just don't do.
We have our policy regarding what we print, and we don't make exceptions, even for friends and family. If we started doing that, our integrity would be gone. There would be constant doubt as to what other information the paper might be withholding, or who it might be protecting, and why. It would also be grossly unfair to those without "friends in high places" to protect them and keep things out of the paper for them.
We could steer away from controversial subjects, printing only "good news" and making sure we never offended anyone. But that's not news. That's PR. - Brent Shrum