EDITORIAL: Judging our judgment

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Journalistic judgment is an imprecise science for those of us who try

to exercise it. For a lot of folks looking in from the outside, it?s

an oxymoron. Still, it?s true that the ?power of the press? is not so

much evidenced in the words journalists write, but the topics they

choose to write about. And, we might add, how they write about it.



At the Free Press we try to publish stories that serve our readership.

Often, that means positive stories about people and events because a

lot of positive things happen around us. We don?t apologize for that

or see the journalistic mission to be primarily contrary or

exploitive.



At the same time we do report news and explore issues that are not

always pleasant, believing that our mission is to deliver relevant

information about our community so citizens can make informed

decisions about their life as a member of it.



One advantage of being a free newspaper is that we are less tempted to

exploit or sensationalize events for the sake of selling copies and

subscriptions. When you already reach every home in a given area, you

don?t need to manipulate information toward that goal.



We?re troubled by stories of child abusers bandied front-and-center on

Page 1, complete with photos of the abuser and descriptions of his

actions reported in detail. Does that serve the community? One wonders

if photos of the young victim would have been published if available.



Frequently, we become aware of information that could make for

?high-interest? stories. If it serves our readers, we?ll go ahead with

a story, hoping to limit the scope of our reporting to those facts

that are truly helpful. On more than one occasion, we have backed off

from a story because our reporting could jeopardize a positive

outcome, as in the case of negotiations about real estate or potential

business ventures. The story is of value, but the timing isn?t right.



Is our judgment infallible? No. We?ve frequently second-guessed our

decisions and have probably fallen short of our ideal in more than one

situation. But if we err, we hope it?s on the side of decency, grace

and the common good.



We feel those goals are more likely to build a better community that

is tr

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