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Role of a journalist is not always easy

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Jennie’s Journey by Jennie McGhan

This week the news staff at the Daily Sun News was asked to read a trade journal article written about the firing of a freelance writer who spoke out during a public meeting. That freelance writer apparently didn't understand her role at a public meeting is to be a silent and objective observer, recording the events that transpire. So, she spoke up with the belief that she had a right to do so as a citizen. Any representative of the media attending a public meeting in an official capacity who takes to the podium during the public comment segment of a meeting is placing their job on the line. That was something I learned early in my career. Those who have taken journalism classes have been taught this very crucial rule. The reminder earlier this week brought to mind many occasions when I have been asked if I have any comments. I have been to meetings where I am the only person present from the public sector. I politely decline, explaining that I am not a member of the public. As reporters we are media regardless of whether or not we reside within a specific jurisdiction served by a presiding board, commission or council. That's not to say there haven't been occasions during which I have been terribly tempted to speak out. There have been meetings I attended that are maddening. I have wanted to shout out that there was not any funding for the proposal being pitched, knowing with certainty that the budget did not have the flexibility to accommodate the expenditure being discussed. I have wanted to tell individuals they are incorrect about laws that they have twisted to fit their criteria during a meeting. Instead, I hold my tongue and include the laws that are applicable in the ensuing story to clarify the facts for the readers. That is what we do as journalists, attempt to present the facts and let the readers determine what they think. The article about the freelance writer who was fired brought home the reality that our job is to be objective observers. It may not always be easy, but our other option is the unemployment line.

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