OPINION: Knowing is half the battle
Journalism is being threatened in a small county in Oregon, and the same thing could happen anywhere in America, including here in Mitchell County.
When reporters for The Malheur Enterprise started asking questions and getting no answers about a state lawmaker’s ties to business deals and contracts being executed in the county, also called a journalist doing his or her job, Oregon state Rep. Greg Smith asked the county’s sheriff to investigate whether the reporters’ persistence was a violation of the law.
Smith believes emails from the reporters to people’s personal email addresses outside regular business hours and on weekends is a form of harassment. The more disturbing part about this chain of events is a state lawmaker duly elected by the people in his district seems to have no concept of how journalists work or newspapers operate.
There is at least one elected official here in Mitchell County who proudly claims he does not read the local paper, but has also accused us of printing “nothing but lies” and thinks making phone calls to get quotes for a story is nothing more than an attempt to “stir things up.”
An elected official not reading his or her local newspaper is cause for serious concern. Statistics overwhelmingly show people who vote read their local newspaper and voters are more informed than those who don’t vote. If voters read the paper to be informed, then the person the voters elect should be even more informed, and that’s simply not possible without reading the local newspaper.
We don’t expect people to like us, it’s the nature of this job, and we are routinely accused of some of the more outlandish things one could imagine. But the truth is we know journalism is a zero-sum game. If we believe it when people tell us how great we are we have to believe it when people say we’re not.
We should be appalled at what Rep. Smith is asserting in Oregon, but we’re likely not. He simply doesn’t know what being a journalist entails and the purpose newspapers serve, and that’s the real crime.
Brandon Roberts is publisher and editor of the News-Journal. Email him at email@example.com.