Truth… Stranger Than Fiction: By Dave Pearce.
There are two distinct sides to just about everything. There are two sides to every story and definitely two sides to every good news reporter.
The two sides to every real news reporter are as follows. The first side wants to go out and find “feel good” stories that make everyone feel warm and fuzzy, including the writer. Sometimes we find those stories and it gives us our “fix” for that type of story.
Then there is the journalistic side which we learned in college and have learned in life. This is the side that makes us a unique group, probably the more realistic side of the two. This side of usknows to believe little of what we hear. We are taught to question everything, particularly all levels of government. Unfortunately with the Internet and folding newspapers, the number of “real live investigative” reporters is shrinking. In my personal opinion, it is just one step closer to our march toward socialism, where the majority of our information comes from government-run programs and programming. Our ability to think for ourselves and “question everything” is lost in the season of “popular belief.”
I fell into that “warm, fuzzy” story just this past week. While looking for a positive silver lining to the cloud that hung over the murder of Charlie Simpson and the subsequent early release of Erick Schmitt, his killer. I was looking at only the one side of the story. I was trying to dwell on the positive of a man who changed his life for the good and is getting a second chance..
But it didn’t take long after the story hit the newsstands that I was shaken back into reality and back into my element, which is to question things. I had to agree with multiple emails that I received stating that I did not do my job thoroughly. After a quick reality check, I knew they were correct.
First of all, it was pointed out to me that there were multiple victims in this horrendous crime. One writer said it was incredible that the widow of the man who died was able to forgive, there was another person who was also shot during this crime. Why has no one spoken to him? And what about the people who were at the store when the shooting was going on? They had to witness the shooting of a man and his subsequent death as they feared for their own lives. I had to admit, I had gotten wrapped up in the moment.
Another writer indicated “This makes a mockery of our entire legal system. A person shoots two people, killing one, and only 14 years later gets out of prison. One of the other individuals who did not pull a trigger is still in prison. Please explain the justice of this to me. There are people who get caught making drugs for their own consumption who get longer sentences than this man received.”
Again, I had gotten caught up in the moment.
In today’s paper, there is a story about a horse in Cynthiana. On the surface, it appears that there is a young person in the town who uses the horse for therapy. It was quoted in the public meeting that these Cynthiana residents were exempt from that town’s statutes prohibiting horses from being kept in the town’s limits because of the Americans With Disabilities Act. I am still checking on that one but I doubt it.
In my curiosity this week, I drove to Cynthiana to check on the situation myself. One of my reporters covered the meeting. But when I checked back to find out where the home is actually located, I was a little surprised. When I showed up at the home and looked at the grounds and knocked on the door, I was even more surprised.
I sincerely hope the horse is therapy for the young person in question. But how about the multiple other makeshift pens all around the yard housing a multiple variety of animals. I also noticed multiple equines in the pen next door to a prominent Cynthiana business. I was startled by a bolting German Shepherd that, fortunately for me, was penned in one of the pens because otherwise, I would most likely have been attacked.
As I made my way to the rear door of the home, whose lawn appeared to have last been mowed months ago, I heard what sounded like a “herd” of dogs barking at the top of their lungs just inside the back door. No one came to the door. But despite the circumstances, I will have to admit that I was surprised that this town, or any town, would allow this type of set-up one-half block from the center of downtown, regardless of the circumstances.
Again, I am aware that there are two sides to every story and as long as we can pursue both sides, we have done our job.
Several months ago, our newspaper began receiving multiple requests to attend the town’s meetings to keep people abreast of what is going on in the town. We were happy to oblige. But once we began attending these meetings, it is evident the meetings are not run with anyone’s Rules of Order. People refuse to identify themselves, as is required before speaking in a public meeting, and random remarks are made from the audience. While I appreciate the fact that this is a small town and most people know each other, I am of the opinion that more could be accomplished if better order was kept during the meetings. Again, coverage of the meetings involves both sides of the coin.
And, just for the record, anything said in a public meeting IS public record and anyone who speaks during a public meeting is speaking under the protection of the Open Door law. Anything said can be quoted and attributed to the speaker. That’s why there are laws in place just for such occasions.
It is exciting to be covering Cynthiana and its efforts to clean up unsightly places in the town. However, it also sheds light on other issues that only a trained reporter would know. We’re happy to be in Cynthiana and it looks like we are going to stick around for awhile!