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Open Mike

What is the purpose of a newspaper?

What is the purpose of a newspaper? That has been the question asked from some people in the community lately. I have to admit to myself that I sometimes wonder what the purpose of a newspaper might be.

Is a newspaper an advertising machine meant to generate money? Or is a newspaper a conveyor of history? Sometimes the two get more than mixed up.

Is a newspaper something meant for people 100 years from now to look back on to see what our squabbles, momentous events and life-altering situations were? Is a newspaper meant to inform people about the every day happenings? Or is a newspaper, as some seem to think, a venue to express their opinions and not have to worry about hearing the other side?

I believe, just me personally, that a newspaper is supposed to be the conveyor of history. A newspaper is the medium used to show what happened at a meeting, a certain event or who was student of the month or who holds the high school football record for most touchdowns thrown in a game.

I have my thoughts on how a newspaper should be ran. What stories should appear and the tact that should be taken in writing them. I write to tell a story. My stories are sometimes short and can sometimes can take up a page. Luckily, I have had bosses, for the most part, who understand my madness. But I write with the philosophy that you convey every bit of what happened at an important meeting or an event. I write my lengthy stories to tell exactly what happened, so people understand and get all sides. I write to convey the history of the meeting or story that needs to be told.

I disagree with the way journalism is emphasized. Keep it short they say. I am going to go back to college to become a journalism teacher and teach the way I believe journalism should be. People want to know. Information is a valuable tool, one that the journalism industry often overlooks. One of the reasons I got into this business is because I would always read stories in newspapers and was left with all these questions because the article didn't answer them.

Sometimes I lose my faith in the journalism business. I think I would rather be managing a movie theater. Journalism is not about baby-sitting people at meetings and making sure they conveyed something correctly. It is their job to be right and specific. Journalism is not about taking sides or hiding facts because a situation might be revealed that doesn't shine a good light on a person or an industry. A newspaper is there to convey what exactly happens, not put a spin on it. This philosophy should hold true for large towns or small communities.

Let me side track for a minute. There has been some confusion among certain people as to what the purpose of an opinion page is for in a newspaper. An opinion page is to generate thought, discussion, hear people's opinions or suggestions, regardless if it is from newspaper staff members or the community. An opinion page is designed to hear from everyone. Some people have recently suggested that this newspaper staff should only offer constructive criticism on matters, instead of being so harsh. That is a point to be taken and if any of us have an opinion along those lines we will be sure to write about it.

The opinions of the reporting staff at the Daily Sun News vary. And to the credit of our bosses, Editor Bob Story and Publisher Tim Graff, they let us express our opinions. They don't always agree with us and we hear about it, but for the most part they let us stand on our own two feet to be judged by the community for our opinions. Again, I ask for your patience while I get to my point. We don't always agree with one another here at the newspaper. Believe me, there are plenty of times I have gone around with the editor and sometimes the publisher on a subject that I have disagreed with them about. Does that mean they are wrong for their opinions or me for mine? Does that mean we don't like one another? No, it just means we disagree and each of us respects the differing opinions.

There was recent discussion throughout the city about a Dec. 31, 2003 article written about Councilwoman Bengie Aguilar's involvement with possibly forming an Hispanic chamber of commerce in Sunnyside. I bring this up because it is one of the reasons for my column. I will be the first to tell you, I don't agree with some of the things Aguilar is doing, and she knows that and so do several others. But she had the right to present her case after being what I will refer to as torn down at an earlier Council meeting on the very subject. The meeting at which the Council voiced its objections to Aguilar's efforts was publicized on the front page in the newspaper. Aguilar was allowed to present her side of the issue in a later edition, also on the front page.

Contrary to what some might think, it is not the purpose of a newspaper to be friends to everyone. It is the purpose of a newspaper to print the good, the bad and the ugly. But like you, we prefer to hear about the good.

Who doesn't like hearing about who was student of the month or what program is going on within the city or who helped the little old lady across the street. Sometimes the good news comes with the ugly news and it is our job to report this. The newspaper business is not about sugar-coating stories.

It would be wrong of any community member to ask this newspaper, in my opinion, or any other newspaper to not report the facts. The newspaper business is all about presenting the facts-not just what suits some people. Some people may not understand that or like it, but they need to respect it and appreciate it.

. Mike Kantman can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or email him at mkantman@eaglenewspapers.com

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