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I could get real in-depth and rehash things that people already know about newspaper reporters, but I'll keep it short for the sake of time.

Often we, as reporters, are the target of criticism because we report things about public officials or others in the public eye to the citizens in our communities. We report the good things that they do or plan to do, but it is often the negative things that people discuss more and remember years later. I don't think that people really understand things from a reporters point of view at times.

I am sure there are a few reporters that love controversy, but there are much more that don't. What I mean is that, just like yourself, we generally don't want people to be angry with us, but we also know that it comes with the territory. I know the people that are often the subject of the controversy get upset that we report them negatively in the newspaper, but they seem to forget that the public demands it. If we didn't talk about the inner-workings, attitudes or problems within our communities, what would the public think about us a reporters? We can't write feel good stories all the time, but we try to as often as possible too. Unfortunately, those often get forgotten about after a controversial story comes out.

"I can't believe you wrote that about me/department/company etc"
"I also wrote something good about you yesterday"
"That was yesterday, I've/We've forgotten about that"

Our job is to report what is happening in the community, both good and bad to the public. Sometimes we dwelve and dig into things and find out the truth of the matter...but isn't that what people want - the truth? We aren't crusaders for the truth, but merely the mediator between those in eye of the public and the general public. We tell you what is going on or what you can expect. Although at times I have wanted to be Fox Moulder from X-files always searching for the truth - besides, I always found his partner Scully to be pretty hot! But that is beside the point (please excuse my moment of trying to enlighten the mood).

I guess I am writing this because myself and others sometimes have a love/hate relationship with controversial stories. It isn't that we don't want to cover the story and find out what it going on, but we know that we can tick off those we want to also be friends with. We need to be friends with actually. It can often be a balancing act to get information from our public officials or public departments and still keep them on good standings.

We don't have an agenda or want to personally attack people, we just report what was said, what was done or what is expected to happen. I really don't want to write a bad story about someone and then have to see them at other events or meetings, etc, but that is often how it has to be.

This reminds me, I really appreciate something that Benton Fire Chief Ben Blankenship said to me when I first came on staff at the Courier; he told me that he is available and willing to talk to us whether it is good or bad publicity. I also have to commend Benton Police Chief Gary Sipes for this as well...because I have had to seek his comments on two seperate controversial topics on separate occasions. He told me that he didn't like having to speak on the subjects, but that he would - and he did. He didn't evade any questions and he said to me that he also understood that I was doing my job. I appreciated that knowledge from the chief and I wish more would be like that. To also be fair, there are a number of city councilmen all over Saline County that have been open as well.

My whole point - we are just the messengers and you expect us to search for the truth, just as long as it doesn't involve yourself. Really, would you expect anything less?

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Comment by Jillian McGehee on April 1, 2008 at 3:12pm
I feel ya man. And let's all think about a society that didn't have a free press, where the government could do whatever it wanted without someone watching it closely. Remember, the freedom to seek/have information is available to everyone, not just reporters. We all have a right to know about things that are funded with our tax dollars.
Comment by Matt Burks on March 18, 2008 at 2:37pm
Does stealing bites of food from your wife's plate while she's not looking or while she is preparing something count against you?

What about stealing cashews from my dad's mixed peanuts when I visit? Hey...I am just

Actually, I don't steal them from my dad as my parents know when I come over I am check the refrigerator and pantry for food. They always have things that I don't - gourmet cheeses, all kinds of nuts, and a lot of health food that is oddly good tasting.

sorry, I think I got off subject a little!
Comment by Shelli Russell on March 18, 2008 at 1:42pm
Most people probably had some experience like that. If we're lucky, Momma straightens us out while we're young.
Comment by Matt Burks on March 18, 2008 at 1:34pm
Now I know what tomorrow's headline story will to comment more? LOL

I shoplifted a water gun from the store when I was little. I made it out to the parking lot, when all of a sudden my mom said, "Where did you get that?"

The next thing I remember was walking into the store, which by the way was pretty empty at the time, but I walked by the same cashier in the middle of the store, slid through the aisle, looked at him like I got busted and I am about to cry, all the while hiding the toy gun behind my back. At that age I was humiliated! Needless to say, I never tried anything like that again.

Ok...I did steal a dollar from my brother too!
Comment by Shelli Russell on March 18, 2008 at 12:49pm
Okay Matt, I admit it - I stole some gum in Wal-mart when I was five. In my defense, it was already open, so I just figured the store would already be counting it as a loss. Phew! Now I feel better.

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