Editorial: Unsleeping guardian

by Andru McCracken, Editor


“A free press is the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free men prize; it is the most dangerous foe of tyranny. Where men have the habit of liberty, the press will continue to be the vigilant guardian of the rights of the ordinary citizen.” – Winston Churchill 1949

Churchill got it.

He understood that the work of journalism is a key part of a functioning democracy, but time has not been kind to the role of the journalist and the free press. People confuse journalism with boosterism and media relations.

Nowadays, journalism schools churn out reporters and media relations experts side by side.

Here at the Goat, we may confuse the matter with our exuberant community boosterism. Perhaps, over time, people have come to see the newspaper as a ‘good news outlet.’

And things have gotten right out of hand. For example, the Robson Valley Support Society has a written policy of not talking to the press unless they are guaranteed the chance to read and approve the article first.

Being unwilling to talk to journalists openly without seeing an article puts a chill on reporting, especially investigative reporting. In their work as a society and care provider, the support society, more than most should be transparent and accountable.

Their policy is not a valid way to manage its image.

It needs to be rethought.

Doing good work is the only legitimate way to manage its image, and the Society does that in spades.

So I feel bad for staff who are put in the awkward situation of being censors and I hope that the board of the society will reflect on the policy and make a change as soon as possible.

Here at the Goat, we may confuse the matter with our exuberant community boosterism.

Some people in positions of power are confused as to why they should talk to a journalist if there is a chance it will cause discomfort. They forget that as agents operating in the interest of the public they are held to higher standard than the average citizen.

Clearly the Robson Valley Support Society must protect the privacy of their clients. That is obvious and clear. But to close their doors to public scrutiny is problematic.

This week we did a story about the society’s safe shelter program. It was a rare opportunity to see the program in action. Typically, a story about the program wouldn’t be shared because it could have privacy implications. But you can see in the story how that public interaction has a benefit for all involved. It gives the support society a chance to review its programs and address any gaps. In this case, the genie was out of the bottle, they had no choice but to talk to the press. I’m glad they did.

Organizations that are committed to excellence must be open to the press.

When the press calls, it requires an answer without strings attached.  Every time.

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