Kristen’s Corner: The limits of the press
In my first few weeks as editor, I’ve received a lot of phone calls and emails from you, our valued readers. Most have been kind, wishing me well or offering a warm welcome to Lockhart.
In the last few weeks I’ve received a number of emails and calls from a variety of readers upset with different things in our community. I love these emails. You are my eyes and ears in the community. I want you to tell me what’s wrong.
It’s my job to seek the truth and report it, be accountable and transparent, act independently, and minimize harm. And make no mistake about it—I work for you.
But it’s become very clear that many of you do not understand the role of the press, what my limitations are, and how I can (and in some cases can’t) help you. A large part of my job is to inform people, so let me attempt to clarify a few things.
For starters, emailing the editor of a newspaper is not a post on social media. No one sees this but you and me. There are no points for sassy content, no “like” buttons, and no one cares if you zing me. I lived in New York City for four years and have pretty tough skin. But try and remember: I am a human being.
Being a member of the media does not grant me a magic wand or special super powers. I can’t simply write an article and POOF, the problem goes away (man, I WISH). I can’t call an elected official and make them stop doing whatever you’re angry about.
Try and remember, I live in your community too. That thing you’re upset about? It likely irritates the heck out of me too. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish I could march into an elected official’s office and ask him or her to fix that annoying thing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.
My job is to ask questions of people on your behalf, and report what I find. But It’s not a free-for-all simply because you’re upset. I am bound by the SPJ Code of Ethics in what and how I can ask questions.
I can’t go around grinding my (or your) personal ax under the guise of the press. If I don’t get the outcome I (or you) want, I can’t bully an office or elected official into bending to my (or your) will.
In a democratic society, the government is designed to work for you. If you are unhappy there are numerous things you can do.
You have the right to go to a public meeting and submit a comment. On anything! I’ve been to almost a dozen public meetings. I haven’t heard a single public comment at the county or city level.
You can submit a FOIA request which will grant you access to any information I have access to. And with all the social media platforms available today, you can publish it all over the internet at no cost to you (and without the guidelines of a publisher).
You also have the right to contact any elected official and voice your opinion. Remember, they represent you. But that only works if you let them know what you think, i.e., how you want to be represented.
If you don’t like an elected official, I can assure you complaining to me does not help in any way. But you know what does? Voting them out. Or better yet, running against them.
We the People have more power than we could possibly know. You have a voice, and a vote. That’s more power than the press. And way more power than all the elected officials combined.
I’m here to help. But ask not what your local media can do for you, but what you can do for yourself.