A reporter's life for me
People will always find something to complain about, especially when it comes to newspaper stories. We most often hear that information — often from a source clearly noted within a story — is incorrect. We have seen firsthand and dealt with reactions from unhappy readers and often responded to concerns, with a correction when called for, or by explaining additional details the reader may not be aware of. In the event there is a reporting error, we do our best to rectify it in a timely manner.
Media in general is held to a very high standard, despite the fact that reporters are not super-humans incapable of making mistakes. Often, an interview subject will ask a reporter's opinion or a question about a reporter's personal life, religious or political affiliation and not be satisfied when the answer is ambiguous or avoided.
In reading television journalist Anderson Cooper's recent “coming out letter,” we found of interest his description of his life as a reporter:
“Even though my job puts me in the public eye, I have tried to maintain some level of privacy in my life. Part of that has been for purely personal reasons. I think most people want some privacy for themselves and the people they are close to.
But I've also wanted to retain some privacy for professional reasons. Since I started as a reporter in war zones 20 years ago, I've often found myself in some very dangerous places. For my safety and the safety of those I work with, I try to blend in as much as possible, and prefer to stick to my job of telling other people’s stories, and not my own. I have found that sometimes the less an interview subject knows about me, the better I can safely and effectively do my job as a journalist.
I've always believed that who a reporter votes for, what religion they are, who they love, should not be something they have to discuss publicly. As long as a journalist shows fairness and honesty in his or her work, their private life shouldn't matter,” reads a portion of the letter, which also states further down, "I’m not an activist, but I am a human being and I don't give that up by being a journalist."
Well put, we say.
As journalists, we walk a fine line of reporting the “whole story” without becoming intrusively personal. We regularly deal with crime, sometimes with convicted criminals. We talk with grieving families. We often meet people at their homes, alone. We have been in close proximity to fires, people brandishing weapons, car accidents and other similar dangerous situations.
Yes, we have opinions of our own. But we strive to remain neutral in our reporting and to be accurate and fair when writing a story. We do our best to tell both sides. We know it is all but impossible to report every single aspect of every single story but we strive to include as much relevant information as possible.
We realize there always are readers who will look for mistakes, who will claim bias on the part of reporters or after reading the story call with additional information or updated information. But that is part of the give and take of a community newspaper, and feedback only makes for a stronger product.
We consider ourselves to be an important piece of the community puzzle, reporting information and bringing images to people who are not able to attend meetings or events as well as introducing the community to new people, ideas and businesses. We just hope readers realize we are also human beings.