The reporter/editor dilemma

For the past nine months the majority of the opinions, which have appeared in this space, have largely been my own with the exception of the public office endorsements, which were made by the Patriot’s editorial board. Until now it hasn’t been difficult to fill this space with a kudo or a well-organized complaint, but it’s been a real exercise in walking the finest of fine lines between being a reporter and an editor.

Reporters by their nature are supposed to be what Fox News likes to boast as being “fair and balanced.” Whether or not Fox News or any other news outlet meets that standard is open for debate, so you be the judge.

Reporters cover events and write the news for what it is, leaving their personal opinions at home, while editors are charged with expressing opinions on the issues of the day, which may or not be truly reflective of the facts at-hand. One would hope that each opinion is grounded in factual evidence, but that’s not always the case.

The appearance of fairness, unbiasedness and balance are critical to successful and respected reporting, so being in the dual role of both a reporter and an editor creates its own opportunities and potential pitfalls.

Strong, accurate reporting sells newspapers, and so do strong editorials, which provoke discussion on topics that may or may not have been adequately debated in the public arena. In most newspapers, that’s not a problem since each task is handled by one individual and no one carries a double load.

That’s not to say that this editorial is a big self-indulgent pity party, because it’s meant to be an educational explanation of how a reporter can write a news story about an event or an issue that is fair, balanced and wholly unbiased and an editorial expressing opposition to such an event or topic in the same issue. Most of the time people don’t associate the two as being written by the same person, so it means that both jobs are being done correctly.

In the coming months, several large issues will be coming to the forefront in the city of Bremerton, Kitsap County, the state of Washington and the United States as well, and undoubtedly there will be the need for an editorial opinion on these issues like the potential annexation of Port of Bremerton property in the South Kitsap Industrial Area into the city of Bremerton, a possible $20 car tab increase for city residents, several state legislative races and the Presidential race as well.

Fortunately, the Patriot’s editorial board will be called back into action to weigh in on many of these issues, but right now it’s a four-member board, which means the editor and publisher will be the tiebreakers, and that’s not a good situation. A fifth member is needed to break any potential ties. The editor and publisher work together to ensure that each editorial is appropriate and well-written for each edition.

The Patriot editorial board operates largely by e-mail, but its members do attend candidate forums and educate themselves on the candidates and the issues before any votes are cast. Its members serve with anonymity except among its membership. If anyone is interested in being the fifth member, e-mail me at editor@bremertonpatriot.com and tell me why you should be selected as the fifth and final member of the Patriot editorial board. That way you will help an editor/reporter avoid one of the major pitfalls of performing dual roles.

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