Public officials never like to be seen in a negative light.
Actually, they would prefer to always be seen in a positive light.
To quote the wise philosopher Johnny Mercer, they would prefer the press “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative and forget about Mr. In Between.”
That, however, is not honest.
It is not true.
It is not ethical.
And, it is not what good newspapers should do.
Given a choice between telling citizens what public officials want them to hear and telling citizens what they need to know, we will always defer to ordinary citizens.
Clayton County School officials would prefer that we not report about the dangers of losing SACS accreditation.
Clayton County Commissioners would prefer that we not report how they refer to citizens and taxpayers in their own community.
County officials would prefer that we not expose the long-running standoff over a service agreement with municipalities.
Morrow city officials don’t want the light to shine on how its economic developer responds to a local businessman over opening a temporary attraction in the city.
Tourism and business professionals would rather violent crime be swept under the rug.
The list could go on and on.
These are the things that are happening.
Newspapers do not make the news.
They report it — all of it.
Of course, a newspaper wants to celebrate its community.
Of course, we want to share the great human interest stories, provide a slice of life in the county, highlight worthwhile causes, focus on interesting people and most especially on the youth of the community.
We do those things with every edition.
When you think about it, the hard news, the crime, the politics or the scandals make up an extremely small portion of each edition of the newspaper.
However, the things people talk about, the things people remember and, it seems, the things people complain about are those things.
That should tell you something.
News is neither positive or negative. It’s just news.
News can be defined as a current reporting of events.
News can be defined as what people need to know.
News can be defined as what people want to know.
More simply, news is whatever people are talking about.
For some reason, some people do not want newspapers to report the news, they want newspapers to change the news.
They want newspapers to alter and slant the news to make it all positive.
Yes, it’s cliché but when you put lipstick on a pig, it is still a pig.
A murder is still a murder.
A scandal is still a scandal.
Misconduct by an official is still misconduct.
Largely when someone calls the newspaper to complain about coverage, we have one important question to ask — is it true?
Almost every time we ask that question the individual complaining about coverage quickly says, “Yes, it’s true, but...”
Of course, then the appropriate response is, “Then would you prefer that the newspaper not report the truth?”
Sometimes the truth hurts.
However, that is never the intention of telling the truth.
Information is power and the more accurate, reliable and forthright information a person, or a community, has the more informed decisions can be made.
Truth and transparency always makes us stronger.
Photoshopping the community will do nothing to improve it.
We tell the truth about Clayton County because we care about Clayton County.
We so often hear people say the county needs a public relations campaign because the county has an image problem.
When a community is facing troubles and struggles, it is not the image that is the problem. Improve the real problems and the image will take care of itself.
Our Board of Education does not have an image problem. It has a problem conducting business in a businesslike manner and a problem with board members behaving themselves in a civil manner.
When an official goes on a rant toward a citizen or group of citizens the city or county does not have an image problem, but rather the official might have an anger management problem.
If officials do not like it when newspapers report the truth, then they need to change the truth of what is actually going on rather than attempting to shoot the messenger.
In the biblical writings of the apostle Paul in the letter to Galatia, he asks his critics, “Am I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?”
Sometimes, it seems that those in positions of authority or leadership just “can’t handle the truth.”
We will continue to tell all the wonderful, vibrant, exciting, positive stories about life in Clayton county.
We will also continue to tell the truth.
— Editor Jim Zachary