Why you can trust your local newspaper

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Every once in a while I am teased about being in the “fake news” business. The source of that name is well-known. I know people are not applying it to me personally or to this newspaper because the local news is too easy to double check. Local folks treat us very kindly when we make mistakes, in my estimation. But, if we do make a mistake covering a local event or government meeting, it becomes very apparent, very soon. There are just too many people watching what is going on as well as what we report.

But in the grand scheme of things, if we want to ride on the reputation of “the big boys” when they do well, we also have to take the heat of being associated with them when they are accused of reporting “fake news.”

I know “fake news” is applied to intentional errors but an error is an error despite the intent.

The thought occurred to me someone might be interested in knowing what’s behind the decisions we make as journalists at The Brazil Times.

I could say we follow our Judeo-Christian upbringing and that would be true.

Adults today grew up in a culture that was largely shaped by Bible principles. I don’t know that will always be true but when I look at the people in our building, I believe it is true.

But to say we are influenced by the Bible is too broad a statement to make. So, I wanted to share with you a few pithy notes I currently have pasted on my computer, below the screen, where I have to look at them each day. These notes are changed from time to time but the values they represent remain the same.

1. “Double check pages sent. FOCUS.”

Obviously, typos and other mistakes creep into your newspaper but when day is done, it’s late at night and the people putting the paper together are ready to go home, it becomes especially important to “double check” everything. Double check and FOCUS seem to me to be a good plan for everything in life.

2. “Become your BEST!” and “Seek to do good to everyone.”

Again, they sound like good principles for life as well as when putting together a newspaper.

I used to joke that doctors make a lot more money than do journalists. However, while doctors can destroy a person’s life through carelessness. we can destroy a person’s reputation. Sobering thought.

3. “Respect yourself and respect others.” That comes mainly from our general manager.

“Respect, respect, respect” is a message we hear repeated by Jeanne. Especially when frustrated, it’s important to treat everyone with respect.

A tool that goes hand in hand with that reminder is a cotton swab, commonly called a “Q-Tip.”

I was given a couple cotton swabs at an editor’s conference I attended years ago.

“Tape one of these to your phone and tape another one to your computer monitor,” the instructor advised. “When you get an angry phone call or someone sends you a nasty e-mail, look at the Q-Tip before you respomd. “Q-Tip” is a reminder to ‘Quit Taking It Personally.’ They aren’t really mad at you, they are upset by a situation.”

That tip has saved me a truck load of trouble many times.

Believe it or not, “Respect yourself” is something I focused on after it was driven home by a post on Instagram. I really try not to base my decisions on social media but this really makes sense. You owe yourself the respect you need to give others. You can’t force others to respect you but you can respect yourself.

4. The last note, stuck on the right side of my monitor is similar and also came from Instagram. I boiled down a lengthy post into three points that are so important, I believe.

“Give thanks. Think about what you have, not what’s missing from your life.”

“Compliment yourself. Don’t criticize you.”

“Smile whether others smile back at you or not.”

So, that probably gives you a little insight to what an editor of one small community’s newspaper strives to do when he sets down to plan your daily paper.