Neighbor to neighborIn the days leading up to the November elections, it appears that we are going to be treated to a steady stream of mud-slinging on television and social media. Just when I think I've heard the nastiest, most ignorant remark, someone says something that leads me to believe they need a time out and a nap.
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
In the days leading up to the November elections, it appears that we are going to be treated to a steady stream of mud-slinging on television and social media. Just when I think I've heard the nastiest, most ignorant remark, someone says something that leads me to believe they need a time out and a nap.
I confess that I have very strong political opinions and the most difficult thing for me is keeping them to myself. I'm not a mudslinger, but I can get in there and scrap with the best of them—just not as the editor of a newspaper.
Politics can bring out the best in people—their passion to make a difference, wit and intelligence, ability to compromise and collaborate. It can also reveal our weaknesses—a win-at-all-costs mentality that can tarnish the integrity of the individual and the democratic process. There’s a little Machiavelli in each of us. That’s the part that says “the ends will justify the means.” Most of us have succumbed to that way of thinking a time or two.
So last week, I got a letter in the mail at the News-Chronicle. There was no return address on the envelope or signature on the document inside, just the words “Let the people know” handwritten in red felt tip marker. I didn’t have to read the document to know that something was afoot. When someone sends the media information without a signature, it’s almost always dirt. In this case, it was about a particular political candidate. Under the best of circumstances, the information was being shared in the interests of the public. In that case it would be an honorable act. As someone who worked for many years on behalf of crime victims, I have utmost respect for people who come forth with information that may prevent others from falling victim to perpetrators. I have zero tolerance for those who betray the innocence and compromise the safety of children, physically harm others, abuse the public trust.
In some cases, however, it’s not so cut and dried, and the process of figuring out what to do with the information becomes more complex. Who was harmed and how? Was violence involved? How long ago did the incident occur? How old were the parties? Who else was involved and what part did each play? How was the incident handled or resolved, if at all? Is there proof of the allegation? What does the informant have to gain and is there something about the timing of the disclosure that raises questions?
There was nothing in the information that tipped the scale toward publication. The incident, a matter of public record, occurred almost 20 years ago, the issue was resolved and the subject paid the price. It wasn’t a violent crime and no children were harmed or placed at risk. There is no evidence that a similar incident has occurred since. I’m going to let sleeping dogs lie.
The reason being, when it’s just mudslinging, everyone gets dirty, including the person doing the slinging. The fabric of community is a fragile thing. There is enough animosity in the world. I won’t shirk my responsibility to report news, even when it’s ugly, but there's no reason create ugliness.
I urge everyone to take every opportunity to meet the people who want to represent you in public office. Go to events, ask them the hard questions and don’t leave until your questions have been answered. If your candidates are already in office, go to city and county meetings. Learn all you can and make your decision on election night.
I heard a very wise woman say that she wasn’t running against her opponent, she was running for an office. I liked that. So let’s keep it clean out there, folks. In the heat of the moment it can be hard to do, but in the end, we’re all in this together.