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August 18, 2022 - 10:14pm

The no-win of journalism: a necessary element

posted by Joanne Beck in Opinion.

The Batavian staff discussed coverage for the Reawaken tour before it arrived in Batavia a week ago, and options included not covering it, writing a brief piece and moving on, or covering it in its entire two-day glory.

We opted for the latter because, with all of the hullabaloo, accusations, claims, prior news coverage, and expressed fears, it seemed like the right journalistic thing to do. We couldn’t very well fully understand this event and the extensive controversy attached to it without experiencing it for ourselves.

We’ve taken hits for that — verbally and online — with moans of too much coverage, questions of why one item was fact-checked and another item was not, and even the claim that at least one article was “left-leaning.”

It goes to show the age-old saying that perspective is one’s ultimate reality. How else would you explain that both "sides" claimed that the articles were unfair and biased, especially due to fact-checks that used legitimate sources? It’s a well-known phrase in journalism that if you have made both sides angry, then it’s a job well done. To that, we say thank you.

Some people also questioned why certain event attendees were interviewed. One aspect of journalistic coverage is to check in with attendees, and The Batavian opted to focus on one person, or couple, each time. Just because you don’t like what someone said, does that mean The Batavian should not have quoted that person? These attendees were chosen completely by random — there was no particular agenda, thought, or motive put into the choosing.

One thing is for sure with this series of articles: people read, discussed, critiqued, complained, praised and/or debated them, which is the way to at least begin a dialogue on a controversial subject. No matter what your stance, would you rather not know what others think and feel in order to perhaps better understand them? On the other hand, you may feel it better to completely ignore others with whom you disagree, and that’s your right as well. However, ignorance may be blissful for only so long.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “distrust and caution are the parents of security.” So, to distrust and question things is part of being human in an effort to feel safer. The Batavian staff’s objective was to cover the ReAwaken event to pull down the covers of rhetoric and give a glimpse into something that caused genuine fear amongst many within our community. At the same time, we also did that with discernment about factual rights and wrongs.

We were asked why a group of pastors expressing fears of future violence wasn’t fact-checked as much as others who made bold-faced claims. Predicting the future cannot really be proven or disproven until said events have happened. And beyond that, The Batavian did publish an article before the event quoting law enforcement’s conclusion about potential violence after researching other communities. None was found, and The Batavian included that in the article.

Me thinks thou doth protest too much? Maybe. After all, nobody likes to be harangued by second-guessers after putting so much time and effort into coverage. Yet that’s exactly what journalism is all about: articles are to inform, educate, entertain, and yes, even poke at one to think enough about a topic as to offer suggestions or criticisms to the journalist.

And that’s what America, and democracy, and the Constitution are all about, aren’t they? So go and live freely, express yourself peacefully, and enjoy the rights granted to you by this wonderful country of ours.

And we’ll keep taking the hits in an effort to cover and unveil controversial, sensitive, and perhaps even questionable subject matters.

Howard B. Owens
Howard B. Owens's picture
Last seen: 1 day 12 hours ago
Joined: Apr 23 2008 - 3:05pm

Well stated, Joanne.

John Roach
John Roach's picture
Last seen: 1 week 2 days ago
Joined: May 29 2008 - 5:22am

I thought you did as good a job as possible. The whole thing was much to do about nothing in the end.

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