Inconvenient facts from once-trusted sources

“Don’t speak. I know just what you’re sayin’
So please stop explainin’
Don’t tell me ‘cause it hurts
No, no, don’t speak, I know what you’re thinkin’
And I don’t need your reasons
Don’t tell me ‘cause it hurts”
“Don’t Speak” — No Doubt

No Doubt’s breakthrough single was released in 1995 and remained atop the Hot 100 airplay chart for 16 weeks. It was nominated for multiple Grammy Awards, though it lost all categories.

The song was originally written as an upbeat tune, but after lead singer Gwen Stefani and bandmate Tony Kanal ended a long-term relationship, Stefani changed the tempo and vocals of the song along with modifying the lyrics to make the song a mournful breakup song.

The lyrics lament the end of the relationship and ask the partner to quit talking about the reasons that the relationship ended as the writer wants to be able to move on and the constant negative reminders are interrupting that plan.

Sometimes we all have to see/read/hear unpleasant things. It’s part of life, especially when those unpleasant things are simply the truth about a bad situation.

In recent years, journalists have come under more and more fire, made the “enemy” simply due to reporting facts. Yes, some of those facts may be unpleasant to hear, but they’re still researched and sourced facts.

The narrative about journalists being malicious in their attempt to uncover facts really began gaining steam during Watergate, but it had remained nearly along the same thought lines of believing the moon landing was a hoax until a prominent figure used his platform while running for President to vilify journalists.

Since that campaign, and the election of Donald Trump into office, seven shootings have taken place, targeting entire news organizations, the most prominent of which was the Capital Gazette shooting in Annapolis, Maryland, in June 2018, which left five dead.

Reporters delivering on-air reports from the site of an accident or an extreme weather event or at a courthouse, while covering a major trial, have been verbally and even physically assaulted while live on air.

Then, Monday’s Plainsman carried the story of the Marion County Record in Kansas.

The newspaper had covered events that painted an area political figure, a local business person, and the area police in a negative light, and the local police department raided the newspaper and the publisher’s home, taking computers and paper records that could reveal the sources of those reports to the very perpetrators of the acts!

While a judge has now ordered that the raid was illegal, the mood around journalism today follows suit with exactly what was done in Marion.

We should back up quickly and review a bit of what exactly the Marion County Record was publishing that caused a stir.

One of the major issues brought to light was that the paper recently published a story about an area business owner that had a traffic offense, a 15-year-old offense. This was after the business owner in question had refused to allow the paper to cover a public forum held by the area’s Congressional representative.

One of those things involves getting publicly-available records and printing them. The other is illegal.

Heck, recently, there have been a number of comments about this column, stating that “every time (I write), it’s against conservatives,” and “the Plainsman continues to sew division with (my) editorials.”

The crazy part is that those comments came from an opinion piece in the first place. We have an opinion page, which allows anyone and everyone in the community to print his or her opinion in letter form, provided that they stay within certain boundaries of good taste.

I spend hours each week researching data and truth behind every point I make in a column, so without facts behind comments I make in a column, I wouldn’t make them - so using facts hurts one party or another? That should be a huge wake-up call about what that party is built upon!

A good journalist represents the people. That means anyone whose salary is paid via taxes from the people receives a bit of extra scrutiny. Yes, that means the President, Congress, and Governor.

It also means the state legislature, city and county commissions, and school boards. Beyond that, agencies such as police, fire, transportation, schools, and individual persons employed in those areas are all being paid through tax dollars, and they should receive scrutiny.

At a statewide level, South Dakota primarily votes one party into office, despite no party holding 50% of the state’s voters. That means the figures in office that will be examined more closely for the work that they do are of one party - not a point of targeting that one party, simply a matter of doing the job a journalist would do - ends up focused on examining one party.

For those who do want to say that errors of Republicans get all the attention, in the Plainsman multiple times in the past two weeks have been articles or press releases about dysfunction within the statewide Democrat party. While the Republican party has been dealing with some significant internal issues as well, those actually haven’t been covered as in-depth by statewide or even local news entities as the Democratic party issues within the state.

No one party in this state is “attacked” by news media any more than the other. It’s a simple matter of which party is making decisions that can be sourced and fact-checked by media.

In this column over the years, I’ve called out multiple politicians, from both sides of the aisle, and challenged decisions made by area city commission and school boards, neither of which are partisan bodies.

In the paper, when we take a photo of emergency services responding to a fire or a vehicle accident, it’s not to point out the gore of the situation - it’s to highlight the work of the taxpayer-funded emergency personnel. Road construction often ends up in the paper, because you and I as taxpayers are funding that work. Local boards receive coverage of every meeting because those boards are spending our dollars.

The facts may be disturbing or challenge a viewpoint, the credibility of certain area business person or elected leader, or even show a concerted effort by officials to steal money or otherwise harm the taxpayers that fund their salary.

However, reporting that is part of the role of a journalist, and it’s in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution - so if you’re fighting to keep your guns based on the Second Amendment but in the next breath de-basing news media despite “Freedom of the Press” being explicitly mentioned in the very First Amendment, you’re following someone who really doesn’t care about the Constitution, but actually prefers gaining followers who will blindly do his/her bidding.

Unlike Gwen’s desire about her broken relationship, the facts about those who are being funded by taxpayer dollars need to be spoken. If journalists are being actively defunded and having their integrity questioned, who will do that?