Jim Zachary

Jim Zachary is CNHI’s deputy national editor, regional editor for it’s Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas newspapers and editor of The Valdosta (Ga.) Daily Times. He is the vice-president of and FOI trainer for the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. He can be reached at jzachary@cnhi.com.

Journalists are messengers.

Sometimes messengers must share news, information or even editorials that newsmakers, lawmakers and others do not like.

Journalists sometimes find it is necessary to publish an unflattering report that government officials may not like, but that does not mean the journalist does not like the officials, has an ax to grind or an agenda to promote.

Sometimes an editorial calls into question the action or inaction of our elected representatives but once again that does not mean there is any personal animus, anger or ill feelings.

It is possible to have the very highest regard for a man or woman in elected office and still provide coverage that can be less than flattering or commentary that calls that person or the agency into question.

To allow personal relationships, good or bad, to sway news coverage or shape commentary is less than honest and damages editorial integrity.

If a reporter, editor or news outlet has such a bias that an elected official can either do no wrong or do no right, then the reporter, editor or news outlet is compromised and not serving the public well. While completely unbiased reporting is just not possible — we are all human and bring biases to everything we do — fair reporting is essential.

Reporting is reporting and when reporters report they are not making value judgments on what newsmakers are doing or not doing, they are just reporting.

They are messengers.

You may say that you think the national media acts in different ways and is agenda driven but these words are not intended to be a commentary about what the national media does or does not do. Rather, this is about your local newspaper and the way it covers the news.

Then, there are editorials. By their very nature editorials are opinions. Those opinions are only published on editorial pages and are clearly marked as editorials on the newspaper’s website and social media platforms.

Opinions are not necessarily right or wrong. They are just opinions.

The newspaper does not change news stories based on its position expressed on the editorial page.

Nor does the newspaper expect everyone to agree with every opinion and that is why community newspapers make space available for anyone’s opinion. Editorial pages are intended to be an open, free marketplace of ideas, even those ideas that strongly disagree with the newspaper’s own editorial.

Who else does that? Who provides a pulpit and a platform for their own dissenters and for opinions — even political perspectives — from all sides? The answer: Only newspapers.

Jim Zachary is CNHI’s deputy national editor, regional editor for it’s Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas newspapers and editor of The Valdosta (Ga.) Daily Times. He is the vice-president of and FOI trainer for the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. He can be reached at jzachary@cnhi.com.

Recommended for you