April 16, 2013 — A few people in Lassen County think I must be the most biased, unprofessional journalist of all time on the planet — nay, in the entire universe. They have a right to their opinions, and I doubt there’s much I can do to change their minds. I won’t lose any sleep worrying about this, I promise, but I wanted to add my perspective to the conversation.
When I first landed here at the Times about 14 years ago some people thought I was an unwanted newcomer in town on a mission to take down the good old boys. I was the wringer wordslinger (I share a name with a professional writer from New York) brought into town just to launch the revolution. Some said I was a student radical from Berkeley, even though I never went to school there. Still others said someone like me had no place in conservative, Republican Lassen County.
I got a lot of comments like: Who the hell do you think you are to come here and tell us how to live? If you don’t like it here, why don’t you just go back where you came from?
I also got a good dose of the famous Lassen County shine on — that is, I don’t see you because I’m not going to acknowledge your existence in any way (I still get some of that today).
But then again other people said it was great someone at the paper was finally willing to stand up to the powers that be. So go figure.
It’s actually quite funny because nowadays the criticism hurled at me is exactly the opposite. Now I am one of the good old boys myself — a notion that makes the real good old boys double up with laughter and slap their thighs mighty hard. Some say I’m now part of the vast Lassen County Conspiracy, covering for them and helping them spread their corruption and abuse of us all.
Why, some people even say I meet with Lassen County Supervisor Jim Chapman every week so he can tell me what stories should go in the paper. One person sent me an email suggesting I should quit immediately because I was an embarrassment to the entire county. Others have demanded I be fired. I don’t worry because I’d be willing to bet every editor at every newspaper that’s ever existed falls victim to these kinds of comments. It just comes with the territory.
Now let me comment on our website for a moment. Some of those posting comments angrily accuse me of censorship for taking their inappropriate comments down. We have posted guidelines, and if those leaving comments do not abide by those guidelines, their comments will be removed. It’s that simple. It’s not about censorship, it’s about following the rules.
The purpose of the website is to allow people to comment on the stories we’ve posted online. Some of the censorship chargers recently have called our website a chat room. It’s not a chat room — never has been and never will be. It’s a place where our web readers can post their comments. It’s unfortunate this small handful of people insists on ruining the experience for everyone else.
And then there’s the paper itself. Truth be told, we’re kind of old fashioned here at the Times. We’re not at all like the news shows you see on television where the anchors and reporters freely mix their opinions with their reporting — where the reporters and news anchors are, in fact, the commentators. I can clearly distinguish between news and opinion, and sadly some folks can’t.
No, we believe in keeping our opinions separate from the news (of course our opinions are okay on the opinion pages where they belong and are clearly identified). We believe in attribution, and we don’t plagiarize. We don’t copy our news from other sources and then call it our own.
Our goal is to inform, entertain and enlighten our readers.
Frankly, we want to do that in the most ethical, responsible and respectful manner possible.
We agree with the Society of Professional Journalists, the duty of a journalist is to provide a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues.
We agree with this code of ethics that requires us to seek the truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently and be accountable. We always strive to report both sides of a controversial issue.
The journalists here at the Times do not seek to further any particular agenda or ideology. We don’t use our positions in that way. We report the news. That’s it. We recognize to err is human, and if we have made an error or a mistake, let us know, and we will correct it as soon as possible.
Here’s the bottom line. If you feel we’ve fallen short in our responsibility as a newspaper in any way, give me a call at 257-5321. You also may call our publisher, Mike Taborski, at 283-0800.
We’ve dedicated ourselves to producing the best newspaper we possibly can for you, our readers. If you have a comment or suggestion about our endeavor, we want to hear from you.
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