Integrity : firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values; incorruptibility : an unimpaired condition; soundness : the quality or state of being complete or undivided; completenessI’m a news junkie. I didn’t used to be. I used to feel the news was nothing but doom and gloom, car accidents and drug busts, and politics. I never understood the value of a newspaper beyond the comics and the classifieds and housetraining a new puppy. My attitude changed when my love of writing led me to reporting for a few small newspapers, and in the course of researching to learn and understand what I got myself into.
Being the global thinker that I am, I had to learn what it meant to be on the other side of the reason I had an amply supply of newsprint for teaching puppies to do their duty outside instead of on my floor. I found that the journalism ethics and standards of truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability fit me quite well. Of course it took a bit of work to match those guidelines with what I thought about the news, but I tackled the task with gusto. Besides, I could sleep at night knowing deep down that what I was doing, reporting the news, wasn’t going against my grain. Better yet, I could work with people who shared a core set of ethics and standards and that actually could craft a grammatically correct sentence. Yep, it meant that news people were just as weird as the musicians I spent years of my life around, and I fit right in.
My first article didn’t make the front page, but I’ll never forget how it felt to see my stuff in print for mass distribution. I was elated. From that day on, only the Community Shopper hit the floor for the pups. I could do this job, and I churned out a bunch of crap after that initial, teeth-cutting article. But, I had a few really good reporters around me to learn from, and thankfully, they were willing to teach. I would never hold a candle to those reporters, but my ethics remained intact. I observed and wrote what I saw for three years.
I grew to love this little, local daily paper. The editing could be a bit lax, goofs would slip through, but the layout was impeccable and the information was priceless. The lead reporter was hated as much as he was loved, a good indication of his professional integrity and ability to ferret out the meat of a story. I was in good company. The paper held true to journalistic standards.
That changed. One day, it all changed and the line was crossed with me. I exited stage left while a new player came on. Still, I loved that paper and continued to read it front to back, relishing the work of the lead reporter. The people in this little town could rest assured that the newspaper was keeping them informed of the stuff that happened in their neck of the woods, the stuff that mattered. Perhaps the ridiculous situation that happened with me was a one-time thing. Perhaps the shit had rolled to the bottom of the hill already and that would be it. Perhaps it wouldn’t be an indication of the things to come.
I held onto that thought, held on tight to the belief that standards and ethics remained the guide for everyone involved in the newspaper business, regardless of outrageous personal quirks. Then, I started to hear about things, not-so-good things. Turns out, the shit had only hit a ledge and there was a lot more down to go.
I heard of blatant acts of plagiarism. Not from the reporters, but additional bits of copy-and-pasted material off the Internet sliced into stories already submitted without citation. I heard of a case filed in court, not as “the paper vs. a city official,” but as a reporter, unbeknownst to him, as illegal and inflammatory an act as the plagiarism. I heard of childish antics and total disregard for others in the form of sexual inappropriateness.
Sure, that’s all second-hand, though from a trusted source. But, the clincher came yesterday with the publication of a piece that inserts the paper into the local politics. It is unbalanced, unfair and myopic, this piece appearing on the editorial page, signed by the paper, not whoever it was that wrote it! Are these the words of the editor, the publisher, the company that owns the little paper? Are these the words of everyone that works for this paper? Are these the words that put a voice to the community on an issue that effects everyone’s pocketbook?
Not by a long shot. Since the author lacked the balls to put his name so that we can give credit where credit is due, there’s no one to set in our sights, to blast, to blame for the total lack of perspective and fairness. Who cares what the paper thinks. The paper isn’t supposed to insert itself into the issues it is supposed to inform us about. How can anyone view what is now written within its pages as factual, impartial, fair or objective? How can the paper now hold anyone accountable to its readers when it has its own political agenda?
My heart is broken. The paper I loved so much is gone. The people of this little town are now without the eyes and the ears of solid reporting. We are all rendered deaf, dumb and blind by the atrocious antics of a true narcissist hiding behind the paper. In one fell swoop, we have all become victims without recourse.
That newspaper will never, ever grace my floors, no matter how many puppies I should bring home. It crossed one line too many to be forgiven.