Oct. 11, 2011 — A journalist’s job is to get the story — facts and information from various angles and sources —and compile them in a readable, concise format so the community knows what is happening around them. Unfortunately, not everything is black and white.
There is a perspective to be gained with news gathering, which is different from spinning a story to reveal a set of facts that didn’t occur.
Perspective is also not bias because it doesn’t come from the writer but the reader.
To explain, each story I, or one of the staff writers, has published tries to answer one question: What does this mean to the reader?
The answer to that question as we open a word document to start typing is not always easy to answer because what the story means to one reader may mean something totally different to another.
The goal is to get you to read further into the story so you can glean information you need to make informed decisions, know what your elected officials are pondering or simply to tell you about your friends and neighbors.
It’s all a matter of perspective.
Take the story we have this week on Warren Parker and his life’s work — paintings that mean something to him before he dies.
What grabbed me in the story was not his artwork but how he turned his life around and made a difference in the lives of the unwanted teenager.
Others may not care so much about his life story but want to hang one of his “fourth dimension” paintings in their home or office.
A story about a nice, loving artist is easy to find perspective.
Those are stories journalists like writing about. It is a feel good story.
The harder story is when someone dies or has been wrong; if animals appeared abused or we aren’t sure if agencies that are here to serve us are doing their jobs properly.
Those stories require time and a lot of public records.
A journalist needs to make sure he or she uses lots of attribution and can back up allegations with public record.
Fortunately, we live in America where a person is innocent until proven guilty.
We also know that not everything is as it may appear. We have to be careful that photos haven’t been doctored; that our sources are reliable and that when faced with standing behind our stories we have credible information.
As the idiom goes, do we have all our I’s dotted and T’s crossed?
If not, are we ready to print what we have and take the heat?
Truth is even when we know we have the story polished and it is ethical, fair and the legal office says it’s a go, we still may take the heat because we didn’t tell the story right, didn’t tell enough of the story or we were too late with the story.
We can’t and won’t please all readers all the time.
It simply is not possible. We can watchdog agencies.
We can prompt action from boards and groups by our written word.
We can even affect change, but when it all said and done it is still a matter of perspective.
Prison may be better than being homeless.
An abused child may like a group more than his childhood home. A domestic violence victim may not understand it is wrong to be beaten.
Readers may need reminders that they can make firefighters’ lives easier.
Perspective. What does this mean to the reader? Tell me what you think? Send me a letter to the editor Bfrance@lassennews.com.
We are updating and polishing our letter to the editor policy, which will go into effect Nov. 1.
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