Awkward moments in journalism

Being a journalist sometimes puts you in the position of having your butt chewed in public.

The other night at the Isle City Council meeting, council member Lowell Hillbrand referred to “the Isle Days fiasco,” which “hasn’t been reported accurately in the newspaper, I’ll say right here, Mr. Larson.” And another crack about not telling all sides of the story. The incident led to assault charges against the mayor, who happens to be a friend of Mr. Hillbrand.

I like Lowell, and I think he likes me. He’s a musician, and he invited me over to jam sometime. And I like the mayor, though there are things about him I think he could work on.

It doesn’t bother me that Lowell called me out in public. Sometimes a public official has to do that to the newspaper, and sometimes the newspaper has to do it to public officials.

Case in point: I wrote a column recently about local cops misleading the public and refusing to give up public information. It didn’t make them look very good, and I’m sure they felt much the way I felt the other night. I heard second hand that they’re not too happy with us.

The Isle cops seems like good guys, too. Hopefully they see it as part of the job I have to do as editor, but if not, I can live with it.

You can’t be in this business to make friends, but you have to remain friendly and try not to burn bridges, because next week or next year, I’m gonna need those cops and that council member to give me information.

I’m not sure what Lowell would have us do differently. No one on the “other side” has come forward or wanted to go on the record, so we’ve had to take information from public documents. We reported what’s in the court complaint and what’s in the police report. That’s all we have.

My guess is they wish we’d continued to sit on the story, but there’s no way I could decide that the mayor being charged with felony assault of a police officer is not news.

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2 thoughts on “Awkward moments in journalism

  1. It should also be pointed out that it is very easy for an elected official to use his or her bully pulpit to claim news coverage is inaccurate without having to say why in just as public a manner. On the other hand, it is very difficult to report the “truth” when those with the information – sometimes they are the very same accusatory public officials – refuse to share that information.Unless Mr. Hildebrand has more to offer, it sounds like he just wanted to be “on the record” defending a fellow city official. But it was half hearted by the sound of it.In contrast, I’d like to compliment you and Viv for your coverage of a very messy but unquestionably newsworthy incident. Most weeklies wouldn’t be up to such challenge.

  2. It should also be pointed out that it is very easy for an elected official to use his or her bully pulpit to claim news coverage is inaccurate without having to say why in just as public a manner. On the other hand, it is very difficult to report the “truth” when those with the information – sometimes they are the very same accusatory public officials – refuse to share that information.Unless Mr. Hildebrand has more to offer, it sounds like he just wanted to be “on the record” defending a fellow city official. But it was half hearted by the sound of it.In contrast, I’d like to compliment you and Viv for your coverage of a very messy but unquestionably newsworthy incident. Most weeklies wouldn’t be up to such challenge.

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