The Gross National Debt

Friday, December 17, 2010

You can't borrow this armor

Dunno where he is these days, but wherever he is, I’m pretty sure JFL is generating much consternation.

I worked for him for 2 and a half years in Florida for a couple of papers. The papers were sold to the folks in a neighboring county and JFL left the paper.

A lot of people think I am stubborn, hard to get along with and can’t be trusted. I’ll plead guilty to the first two, but suggest if you think I can’t be trusted then your expectations are not where they need to be. In regard to the first two, JFL could (and did) give me lessons. Was he trust worthy? As far as I knew him, yes.

JFL had a flair, even greater than mine, for the dramatic. I remember going to the Courthouse to get the list of residents who’d signed a net ban. This was as controversial in Florida, at the time, as gay marriage in California. I arrived at the courthouse, told the Board of Elections what I was after. After considering grumbling and commentary, the list was handed over.

Within a day, word was out that I had the list of signatures and now JFL had it. You could feel the heat rising. There were allegations for forgery, faked names and so forth.

We never ran the list of names. John said he wanted to see who signed it.

That’s the way he rolled. Myself, had I sent a reporter to get the names, I would have printed the names in the paper.

That’s where JFL and I parted ways where a newspaper was run. He did play favorites.

A lot of people will tell you I play favorites. This is where they say I can’t be trusted.

I say show me some proof.

As I remarked to a friend in town recently, when I step out as the editor of the newspaper, I don’t have a friend. None. Anywhere. Not a single person. No one. Not even you, who may be reading this column.

“I get that,” he said, leaning back in his chair. Indeed, he is one of the few people I can talk to who fully does understand that and fully gets it.

When I step out as me, leaving my editor’s hat hanging in the office, well then I hope I do have friends. I certainly need ‘em. I know some folks count me as a friend and I cherish that. I consider them friends too.

Yanno the definition of friend, right? Acquaintances help you move. Friends help you move bodies. There are a few people in this world who can call me in the wee hours of the morning and the first words out of my mouth with be “Do I need to bring you a shovel too?”

I shall try to explain the difference.

As the editor, I am in a position of making daily decisions that affect people. While it’s never happened to me, I have colleagues in the biz who’ve published something. A day or so later, a person in the article committed suicide over the article.

I have run articles which resulted in people being arrested, fired, sued, divorced and a lot of other negative consequences.

Did I like doing it? Well. Where the person got just desserts, yeah. Otherwise, no.

 I’ve been threatened because of the stuff I write. I’ve been threatened over stuff I planned to write. I did write it. (A great way to make sure something absolutely gets published is to threaten me.)

So why’d I do it?

Because you have a right to know. It’s my job to give you information and let you make the decision. I try to get you information as complete and accurate as I can.

Do I always succeed? No. I do make mistakes. But far more often I am lied to, mislead and given incomplete information.

There are also times when someone feels I didn’t do enough to tell the whole story. In their eyes, I’m guilty. In my own eyes, yeah, I have fallen short, but more often I consider I did what was necessary and more important reasonable.

I can’t count the times someone has badgered me about a story being nothing but lies.

This is where JFL and I again parted company. He’d take the person apart.

“You are saying he’s NOT the mayor?” JFL would ask.

“No. He is the mayor,” the person would say.

“So the story is not all lies,” JFL would say.

Then he’d walk down the entire news story line by line, word by word rubbing the complainer’s nose in the fact the story WAS true and accurate, it was just the complainer did’t want the story published. That infuriated all kinds of people.

I found it amusing. But I don’t do it. I let the person rant and when they are done, I walk away.

Yassee, as the editor I don’t have friends. I do have an obligation to the truth. I don't play favorites.

If it comes down to the point of delivering the truth or protecting you, well, I hope you have armor cause I'm not loaning you my editor's armor.

If the truth hurts, you ain’t living right.

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