Why we do the things we do
Quite often, we in the newspaper business are questioned about why we choose to write about certain things and why we do not write about other things.
Sometimes, questions arise regarding stories about people arrested and/or charged with a crime. Such was the case this week when we wrote a story about Hope Selectman Eric Campbell, who pleaded guilty to cultivating marijuana.
One of the areas readers seem to enjoy most in newspapers is the coverage of police and court news, but it also seems to be one of the areas readers most often complain about. In any case where someone is convicted in Knox County of marijuana cultivation, we will run a blurb about it in the court news.
Breaking that story out of the crowd in court news and making it a separate, more in-depth piece is a judgment call.
Campbell's case is newsworthy because of his position as a public official. There are several other factors to consider. First of all, he was convicted of this crime, not merely accused or charged, so we are on solid ground there. In addition, he is clearly entrusted by his neighbors in the town in a leadership role.
Where the issue gets dicey has something to do with where you stand on marijuana laws. Many people in our state, nation and community feel strongly that it makes little sense to fight a war on marijuana while judgment impairing alcohol products and lethal tobacco products are deemed socially acceptable. Despite the amount of time and energy spent talking about other forms of substance abuse, alcohol-related problems remain the most costly in our community, according to information from the state.
Opinions among reporters in the newsrooms of Courier Publications cover the same range of views we find in the community from those opposed to marijuana legalization and those in favor of it.
To some extant, we agree Campbell's is a victimless crime. However, the law is still on the books, so his decision to break it suggests that he feels the rules don't apply to him. This disregard for and disrespect of authority is made flagrant by the fact that he holds a leadership position in the community.
We hold community leaders, elected and appointed, to a higher standard.
It will be up to the citizens and fellow leaders of his municipality to decide what the consequences will be.
If we had not written about the charges against Campbell, it could also appear that we were protecting him because he is in a position of power. We have over the years received calls from citizens concerned about issues in their community who worry that we will not cover those problems effectively because we are beholden to some business or public leader. "So and so is a big advertiser," someone might say, or "so and so draws a lot of water in this town." We'll do our jobs anyway.
A thick skin is essential in journalism; and we know we are both loved and reviled, praised and cursed, often in the same breath. Ultimately, we are messengers, sharing factual information collected about a variety of topics, some of which are guaranteed to rub readers the wrong way. It is our responsibility to report fairly and accurately about a broad range of newsworthy events.
Start the ball rolling
The private purchase of a single family home in Camden filled the editorial section of The Herald with letters last week, when it was revealed the new owners intend to tear down the existing house and rebuild a new structure. It appears to us the neighbors understand that the new owners have a right to do what they want with their newly-purchased property because several pointed out the lack of a local historic preservation ordinance.
While the structure on Chestnut Street falls within a National Historic District, there are no local ordinances in place to protect it. We aren't sure of the reason behind a lack of local historic preservation ordinances, especially because Camden has such a rich history. We encourage neighbors to keep up their fight for local historic preservation guidelines despite the outcome of this particular property.
This week marked another year since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. The memory of that day remains clear in the minds of so many, The Camden Herald staff among them. Some of us were in college, some with children and families, but each of us has a different perspective of the day and we have no doubt the event will remain a vivid memory for years to come. We remind readers there are people taking action each day to save lives and prevent another attack; and we encourage readers to say thank you to soldiers, police and emergency response workers every day.