ZACHARY: General Assembly must provide 2021 access

DomeLight by Jim Zachary 

When newspapers publish editorials that hold government accountable or stories that expose missteps by those in power, it is not personal. 

Reporting facts on news pages and taking strong positions on editorial pages are not personal attacks. 

Journalists often have to take the emotion out of their reporting to separate the person from the policy and the policy from the person. 

Opinion writers may support a policy, measure or bill carried by a lawmaker but not be supportive of everything that lawmaker says or does.

Journalists may have a personal affinity for, or good relationship with, someone in public office but strongly disagree with a position that person takes on a particular issue or piece of legislation.

Journalists may find it necessary to publish an unflattering report that government officials may not like, but that does not mean the journalist does not like the officials.

An editorial may call into question the action or inaction of our elected representatives but once again that does not mean there is any personal animus, anger or ill feelings.

It is possible to have the very highest regard for a man or woman in elected office and still provide coverage that can be less than flattering or commentary that calls that person or the agency into question.

Allowing personal relationships, good or bad, to sway news coverage or shape commentary is less than honest and damages editorial integrity.

If a reporter, editor or news outlet has such a bias that an elected official can either do no wrong or do no right, then the reporter, editor or news outlet is compromised and not serving the public well.

Completely unbiased reporting is just not possible — we are all human and bring biases to everything we do — fair reporting is vital. 

Frankly, good people can do bad things and bad people can do good things. Still, it is never inappropriate for journalists to point out that character, decency, morality and ethics matter. 

A trustworthy media reports the good and the bad and works hard to make both news reporting and editorial writing about facts and truth, rather than personal attacks. 

Jim Zachary is CNHI Director of Newsroom Training and Development, the editor of The Valdosta Daily Times and The Tifton Gazette and president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. 

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