We received several phone calls this past week concerning our coverage of the Guin City Council meeting in the Wednesday, April 10, edition (Meeting ends early amid shouting, finger-pointing).
Those who fielded the calls were told they didn’t like how this story was handled, the harsh manner in which it was presented. In fact, our staff was told we actually reported too much.
Well, we didn’t like it, either.
Covering meetings when tempers are flaring and conversations and discussions are frayed are not enjoyable for our reporters.
One caller suggested that we simply tone it all down and report as-is. Simply put, that’s pretty much what we did.
Regardless of what you may think, we don’t go into meetings with a cocklebur under our saddle, ready to be pitched off and land hard.
Sometimes, however, it happens that way and no, we didn’t start the fire, but we do report on who threw kindling and gas on the blaze and made it roar even higher.
We felt like we were told that we should pick and choose our news coverage more discreetly.
The Guin City Council is no different than the other town and city councils, the Marion County Commission and the two school boards that we cover.
Sometimes, feelings and opinions can become quite harsh, perhaps even leaving open wounds that are hard to heal.
Those instances, however, aren’t ours to make the call on. We cover the meeting--good or bad, hot-tempered or mild, productive or non-productive. We don’t pick and choose, because in reality, we don’t have the power to do so and furthermore, that’s what we do as newspaper reporters.
Nothing has changed in what we do. We have new faces covering these meetings as our newspaper, just like many, many others in our business, has undergone changes and turnover. Our reporters are there to do their job: Cover the meeting, whatever it entails. We do try to offer background information when available, simply to bring our readers up to date concerning a particular topic being discussed in that meeting.
Yes, we hope the Guin City Council meetings would become more cordial and productive in the future, but that’s the same hope we have for all of the meetings we attend and cover.
Still, we can’t control that.
You, the voters, can. You, the citizens of your respective municipalities can.
If you believe your leaders are not performing or conducting themselves in a manner which puts your best foot forward, let them know about it. Better yet, why not attend these meetings? We can’t recall many occasions when you couldn’t find a seat.
We’re not your public relations firm, though whenever possible, we try our best to be just that for you. Your respective leaders are your best PR firm and yes, they above all others, should realize that fact.
Telling us you don’t like what we print when the story is printed in the Journal Record is hindsight.
You can take control of the situation--not us.
Like our slogan says, “We don’t make the news--we just print it.”
One caller explained that we, the newspaper, are hurting the City of Guin’s opportunities to bring in new industry, being a place where people would like to locate and raise their families.
Perhaps we are, simply by covering a meeting and not glossing over what is being said or, in Guin meetings as of late, being argued about.
Discussions which lead to arguments are not all bad. How those arguments are conducted is what can turn a simple discussion into a bad situation, one that really doesn’t have to happen.
To ask the Guin City Council to put these quarrels and contemptuous meetings behind them is a quite simple request.
But once again, it’s not in our hands. Look to your leaders and hold them accountable.