What were they thinking?

By Bill Packard | Apr 20, 2012

Thank goodness there is a local news media again! It’s good to have the VillageSoup back and better than ever. I wrote for the former paper on a regular basis for a fee, and then after a while, they were not paying contributors, so I stopped writing. I found that I missed it, so I continued to write, but kept it to myself. Over time, I would send in a guest column from time to time, just because I wanted to say what I wanted to say.

So here we are with an exciting new publication and now people are asking me if I’m going to start writing again. This is the deal. I don’t want to commit to making a deadline with a piece that people will want to read for no money. Hate me if you will, but I’ve given away so much stuff in my life that I have to draw the line somewhere. More importantly, a paper needs to be profitable to survive. We are all quite aware of what happens if that is not the case. So look. I’m not going to get rich if I go back to being a regular, but the paper needs to know if enough people are going to buy the paper or subscribe online to cover what they pay me along with the other big obligations they have. Here’s what’s happening. I’m sending in this piece just because. If you want to read more of what I write and you want to support the VillageSoup, we might have a deal. If you don’t, that’s fine too. Contact them and tell them what you want and back it up by ponying up a few bucks to keep the thing going. Here’s the piece and we’ll see what happens.

News articles are interesting. Not just because they are news articles, but because of what they don’t say. No matter how good a job the reporter does, there’s always another version of what happened. After all, even if there have been interviews and research and such, it’s still just one person’s report of the incident or situation.

An aspect of news articles that is particularly dear to my heart is the “What were they thinking?” part. More often than not, when I read a news article, that’s the question I ask myself, “What were they thinking?” I think this is very important because while I don’t watch TV news and only choose to follow up on certain headlines, these articles always remind me of how some of my actions will read in the local news outlet if things go bad or I’m discovered. Over time, this approach has proven very valuable to me as I’ve adjusted some of my plans based on the potential news article I envision on the front page of the paper, and saved myself some embarrassment.

All this brings me to a recent piece about two Golden Retrievers up the coast in Hancock County that decided to go for a little jaunt and got picked up by the animal control officer. Obviously I don’t know this person, but my experience over the years has been that this is a position that for some reason attracts people that sometimes take themselves and their position way too seriously. This may or may not be the case in Hancock County, but I’m leaning that way based on the ACO’s statement that “she went by the book.” Here’s the way I see things. Going by the book is an excellent place to begin, but usually is not a good place to finish up. Here’s what I mean. Having standards and procedures assures that situations are handled in a consistent, professional manner. Having said that, we’re dealing with animals and humans and those two things throw a monkey wrench into the works. Now what? We have the book and we have the monkey wrenches. At this point, doing the right thing needs to take priority. Now, doing the right thing is more elusive than one might think, unless some time is taken to contemplate how things are going to look on the front page of the paper.

Let’s quickly go through what happened with the dogs. The ACO picked up the dogs and took them to the shelter. The shelter was supposed to keep the dogs for 10 days, I think. After the allotted time, the dogs were sent to a Golden Retriever rescue outfit in Massachusetts. All this time the family is doing what they think they should to try to find the dogs, but they don’t find out what happened until the deal is done. The first thing that looks bad in the paper is the ACO says the family could have done this or that. The problem with this statement is that dogs don’t come with instructions on what you are supposed to do if they disappear. You do what you think will work to get the dogs back, but there is no “book” for that. Now that the situation has come to light, the selectmen of the town are questioned and of course they support the ACO because she “went by the book.”

This is what we do as humans. We make mistakes. Things happen. Just fix it. That’s all it takes. Why people in public service are so reluctant to admit a mistake and fix it just baffles me. Instead, time and time again, they fall back on the “go by the book,” “I had no choice” reply. How about we do the right thing? They know where the dogs are. Just get them back. There may be some expense. It will be a small amount of money. I know what municipal budgets run. Trust me; to do the right thing is not going to break the town. If some animal control law was broken, hold the owners responsible for their actions. I think it would be so refreshing and newsworthy for a public official to say something like, “Let’s just make this right, and do it right now.” That would be cool, and that would be news. We don’t have bad people here that are doing bad things. We have people that are putting “going by the book” ahead of “doing the right thing.” They are not going to reverse those positions unless we as a society set that as our expectation. I think that’s what we should do.

Bill Packard lives in Union.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Yep I Said It | Apr 22, 2012 15:12

How about the dog owners "make things right" and go retrieve their dogs, paying all costs incurred. They didn't check the local shelter for 10 days after their dogs went missing? Sounds like an adoptive owner may prove better for the dogs' welfare.

Posted by: Jean LaCroix | Apr 21, 2012 12:15

Welcome back, OB.  Hope to see more of you here; I always enjoy your common sense approach to life here in Maine.


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