I write for a paper that builds up, doesn’t tear down

Published 10:44 pm Friday, January 3, 2014

I read an article recently that was in my interpretation a “take-down” piece of a public school teacher. A very respectable person wrote the story in a very respectable newspaper.
Essentially, parents of students in the school and in a particular program the teacher runs, were unhappy with results they were seeing. The blame was placed on the teacher, her methods and questions were raised about the hiring process that the teacher was involved in.
What if I told you I was thrilled to read the article?
I was.
I was not thrilled for the teacher, or the parents or the newspaper, but instead, I was thrilled to know I write for a newspaper that serves its community and cares for the people that live in it.
In an interview for my first reporting position, the editor, now a good friend, told me about the newspaper I would be working for. He explained the newspaper was a cheerleader for the community and they wrote mostly positive articles about the job the local government was doing, what the local civic organizations were up to and heart-warming human interest pieces.
“You have to be kidding me,” I thought, sitting in his office, just staring at his face while he kept telling me about 100-year-old birthday parties and food festivals I would write about. “I just spent four years in journalism school learning how to take people down,” I thought.
What would Woodward and Bernstein think about writing positive articles about local government bodies?
Where was my Watergate scandal, the deep throat sources I imagined every journalist having?
But as soon as I wrote for this newspaper I learned a very important lesson about journalistic responsibility and integrity while writing about all those fluffy food festivals and art shows in the community, and writing countless editorials that were “atta-boys” for local leaders.
I learned that the newspaper has an incredible amount of power and influence in a community — especially a small and historic one. Small towns, are things I learned to not trample over and laugh at, but I learned they are sacred, fragile and magnificent in how they circle and flow. The newspaper fits into that cycle and the newspaper is greatly responsible for growing the community.
When we do take a clear stance on wrongdoing, whether it be some sort of crime, abuse or irresponsible public spending — we work to shine a light to protect the community and the people we love.
My favorite journalism professor and author, Rick Bragg, once told our class that journalists are voices for the victims ­—  the abused who do not have a voice. We point out wrongdoing, not to be the point of a sword, but to help others have a say.
I am thrilled this newspaper does not look for trouble, but applauds community growth and development.
I am thrilled this newspaper seeks to not tear down, but instead build up.