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Reporter's Notebook

October 27, 2012

Welcome to upstate New York


The newly minted Otsego County resident in me was deeply impressed. The hard-nosed Jersey journalist, who still lurks large in my psyche, whispered, “What are they hiding?”

This is the crux of the problem for a reporter. We are trained to ask questions, sometimes difficult ones, in our quest for some semblance of truth. In a very real sense, we are professional skeptics. Balancing that impulse against the wish for nothing but the best for the place we live isn’t easy.

And the truth is that a good reporter has to let both impulses live side by side in perpetual, if creative, tension, because they are, if you will excuse a cliché, two sides of the same coin.

I wouldn’t be a good reporter – or a good neighbor – if I swallowed everything everyone told me. And I wouldn’t be a good neighbor if I ran roughshod over everyone in my path. For one thing, I’d find pretty quickly that nobody would talk to me. Silence is anathema to journalism.

At its core, journalism is a community discussion: News is conveyed, public policy hashed out and culture chronicled. Reporters and editors are the moderators for that discussion. It’s our job to obtain facts around which the discussion can revolve. We may not always have every fact, but that’s usually not from want of trying.

This is not a suggestion that New York legislate “Be Kind to Journalists Week.” We wouldn’t know how to cover such a stunning and unlikely turn of events.

Instead, it is a plea that you consider your role in all of this. You’re the people we write about; you’re the people who read our prose. We don’t exist without you. Think about that for starters.

Then think about your role and ours in a civil society, and not “civil” in the legal sense, but in the everyday, person-to-person sense. That doesn’t work without mutual respect. And mutual respect requires tolerance for our differences, though not necessarily silence.

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