Why we do what we do

Published 11:04 am Saturday, December 20, 2014

“All you guys do is report bad news.”

Have you ever felt that way? If so, you’re not alone. It’s easily the most consistent critique I hear about our newspaper, the notion that what we report on is overwhelmingly negative.

It’s not true, by the way. The disturbing stories of the last week or so notwithstanding, the majority of what we report on in The Tidewater News is either positive or neutral, and I’d be glad to spread a month’s worth of newspapers out and prove it for anyone who’ll take me up on the offer.

I have been asked before, and on more than one occasion in the last couple of weeks, if it isn’t our responsibility to cast the community in the best possible light rather than put negative stories on the front page, if at all. And my answer to that is, quite simply, no. It is up to the community, both as individuals and a collective whole, to cast itself in the best light possible. We then publish the community’s shining moments for all to see.

Conversely, it is also our responsibility to let the community know when something inappropriate is afoot. Why? Here are a few examples.

The community has the right and a need to know if flawed hiring practices land an accused heroin dealer in a classroom full of six-year-olds for two months. Why? Because in Franklin, an individual who gets a job with the city in the janitorial department has to pass a background check before being allowed to scrub the first toilet in city hall, but a new teacher is allowed into the classroom before the school board is aware of any baggage that individual may be bringing in with them. By clearly and honestly informing the public, it provides the opportunity for citizens to demand change within an obviously flawed system.

The community has the right and a need to know if crime in the City of Franklin is out of control. Why? Because the companies that would consider Franklin as a place to invest and grow are doing the research, and there’s no way to know how many have crossed us off of their list because we have the second-highest crime rate in the state of Virginia. Armed with that information, citizens then have the opportunity to demand the city’s leadership take the appropriate steps to clean up the problem.

The community has the right and a need to know that its school system is flawed and failing. Why? See above.

The community has the right and a need to know when its local government is not acting with transparency. Why? Because when citizens in Isle of Wight County are informed that the county attorney has decided to no longer publish public notices in the local newspaper, they can raise an appropriate amount of hell and demand that county do what they are legally obligated to do.

Believe me when I tell you that we greatly prefer to publish a newspaper where the success of the high school robotics team is the lead story as opposed to one where a 22-year-old gets shot in the head. But when those things happen, the community has the right and a need to know about it. That’s why we do what we do. And it’s why we are going to continue doing it.

TONY CLARK is the publisher of The Tidewater News. He can be contacted at 562-3187 or tony.clark@tidewaternews.com