Turning the Tables on the Media

Shortly before noon today, I headed over to the U.S. Bank building where members of the Idaho Press Club were meeting. Idaho Senator Dean Cameron, Representative Scott Bedke and former candidate for Idaho’s First Congressional District Andy Hedden-Nicely and I had all been invited to serve on a panel called “The Other Side of the Microphone” to discuss our “experiences as the source, or focus, of the news in Idaho.”

I had to admit I have been waiting a long time to have the opportunity to “turn the tables” a little bit on the media. That said, attendees were a diverse and delightful group including students, public information officers and numerous reporters, some with a number of years of experience.

Rumor had it that the discussion was all “Off the record” but those of us who have been covered by the media for any length of time recognize that there really is no such thing.

My main points and pleas were for those who report the news to ensure the accuracy of what they are passing on to the public. I also pointed out that the people in the room with the most power were not those of us on the elected officials’ side of the table but, rather, those who are members of the media.

A reporter asked just before this session how one holds “the powerful” (by which she meant elected officials) accountable – a worthy goal – and I threw the concept right back: how does the public hold the media accountable for doing their homework and telling the real story, the whole story, in a forthright and unbiased manner?

One of the other pet peeves I mentioned is “selective” journalism. For example, some members of the media are loathe to report the answers to their questions when their digging uncovers only good news.

For me, the bottom line is that a good reporter will make every effort to attend for themselves any meetings relevant to their subject matter, will do their own digging for facts, and then will double check those facts before anything is ever printed or reported to the public.

Spokesman Review reporter Betsy Russell asked us which question we are not usually asked but would like to be asked. My response was, “Do I have this right?”

One reason I am writing this blog is to ensure that members of the public have a source of information that presents factual information about what is going on in Ada County government. I admittedly throw in the occasional issue from other levels of government and an opinion or two or three, but then, it’s nice to be writer, editor (with a lot of help from some good friends) and publisher of my own little slice of Idaho news.

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