It is fitting and timely that this week the Herald received an article from the National Newspaper Association calling for respect for reporters. The article describes a recent attack on a news reporter in Georgia.
The reporter was covering a county meeting, nothing controversial, but evidently the attacker was upset about recent coverage.
In our community, there was a time when unpleasant events such as this seemed to happen ‘somewhere else.’ Uninvited outbursts were less likely to happen in the tranquil small-town community of Ava, Mo.
Well, not so much anymore.
The article about the attack on the news reporter in Georgia caught my attention because last Friday at the Douglas County Herald offices, circumstances dictated a need for us to call the Ava Police Department –– we had an irate school board member in our office.
The board member was upset over Mike Boyink’s recent coverage and editorial comments explaining circumstances relating to the stand-off between the local Bus Drivers Association and the Ava R-I School Board.
A controversial issue, and everyone has an opinion. Right or wrong.
Thank goodness we each have freedom to express our thoughts, but to most, it is also important to maintain civility –– especially for elected officials. Elected officials should be held to a higher standard. They represent the community and taxpayers.
The article below was released on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019 by the National Newspaper Association, located in Pensacola Florida. The article is being reprinted with permission.
National Newspaper Association calls for respect for reporters on the job
National Newspaper Association President Matthew Adelman, publisher of the Douglas (Wyoming) Budget, issued a call for civility and respect for journalists as they do their jobs. His call follows the release of a news report about a reporter in Chattooga County (Georgia) who was attacked while covering a local meeting.
Reporter Casie Bryant, with an internet publication called All of Georgia, was the victim of battery when the wife of a county commissioner — who was apparently upset at the publication’s news coverage — poured a soda over Bryant’s head while she covered the meeting.
Police were called.
The Summerville (Georgia) News reported that the attacker, Abby Winters, later said she tripped and accidentally poured a dark soft drink over the reporter’s head. But the Summerville police report quoted witnesses hearing Winters say, “she deserved it.”
Adelman said the incident was a sobering reminder that journalists at all levels of news coverage can draw violent responses to their stories — even at an event as routine as the county budget meeting that Bryant was covering.
“We are seeing a rise in attacks,” Adelman said. “National news may focus upon atrocities committed on journalists in other countries and let us think that our tradition of free press protects community journalists. But the Committee to Protect Journalists says that 1,373 journalists have been killed worldwide since 1992. We must be concerned when our domestic tensions wind up focusing on reporters who are simply doing their jobs. NNA is calling upon journalists to maintain their professional detachment as they stick to the facts and leave their opinions to the editorial pages, and upon public servants to remember that it is our job to cover their work.”
As a newspaper, it is likely the Douglas County Herald will always be challenged by someone, reading something they don’t like. Whether it is a meth arrest listed on the front page or a school board member out of control, it is and always will be our job to report news events to our readers.
But in addition to the journalistic obligation, it also seems that in the real world, a civil attitude is much more productive and effective.
In the words of Robert Frost… “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.”
Shouldn’t a school board member already know that?