Stressful time for newsmen

Stressful time for newsmen
Date July 16, 2004
Section(s) Columnists
By Peter Hussmann


It’s kind of like watching your neighbors argue. You’ve lived next door for years, know their parents, been invited to the graduations, had them over for dinner, even watched their kids a time or two. All of a sudden you’re put in the middle of a situation where sides are expected to be picked, her or him, us or them. You don’t want to be there but your proximity forces the necessity.

The problem is you like them both. You would love to see them work out their disagreements because you truly care for each. But it appears the sides aren’t talking much. The common ground which has kept them together so long appears threatened.

Though you intend not to pick sides, well aware that you don’t fully understand the problems which have brought them to this point, your actions are scrutinized. Holding the ladder while he cleans the gutters is taken one way. Helping her cart groceries to the house is taken another.

Such is the case I faced as I dealt with the most stressful situation I’ve ever been involved with in my 20 years as a newsman. Both sides involved in the Maytag strike took their opportunities to criticize the local news coverage, each saying a bias existed toward one side or the other, according to their interpretations of the reports written.

But those critical of the coverage failed to understand that newspapers don’t write for the audience being covered. The reports are written for the general reading public, the neighbors — so to speak — who don’t know what’s happening and why what is going on is important to them.

But that’s not to say that those asked to cover the strike do not have their personal opinions on the situation. The problem of journalism is that reporters bring their own convictions to the table every time they are asked to cover a story. It cannot be eliminated, only mitigated. We are not blank slates. A professional, however, leaves those thoughts at the news story door and relegates those opinions solely to the Opinion Page, a disconnect probably lost on most readers. The hard news columns are for Jack Webbs only. “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Trust is a hard thing to garner and even more difficult to reinstate once it’s lost. For any real or perceived transgressions, I — and the Daily News — apologizes. But what I can say to readers — and those who were so closely involved in the strike situation — is that I — and the Daily News — demanded both sides be fully heard; as much as each trusted to tell or from what we were able to glean on our own. That’s our job.

So let’s move on.

Will somebody please tell me why corporate America doesn’t demand that the current health care system be modified? Why is health care employment based? I don’t understand why the only group which could probably gain the ear of the Hill doesn’t demand something be done.


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