728 x 90

Critically objective thinking


I read an opinion piece from the Seattle Times recently on the topic of neutral journalism versus objective journalism. The writer states that he feels neutrality does a disservice to the reader, as it does not seek the truth that good journalism should strive for. Objectivity means that a piece will present evidence and a conclusion.
Accusations of biased reporting is really prevalent in today’s news landscape, and have been for some time, so it is really appealing to try and stave that off by presenting a topic with a neutral perspective.
Alas! The problem with this is that two opposing viewpoints may be presented as equal in an article, but they might not be reasonably equal in practice. A sensible argument and a logically invalid argument cannot compete in the same arena. Sometimes, there is a right and a wrong, and not always a right and an also-right.
My digression highlights my hesitancy to call out local political figures. In my attempts to remove as much of my personal opinion from my news articles, a sense of critical objectivity can sometimes be lost. While it is never my mission to publicly embarrass anyone who is working hard for their community, a little critical thinking does sometimes need to be applied to the actions of certain public figures.
Take, for instance, last month, when a number of public comments and statements were made by Municipality of Swan Valley West (MSVW) Councillor David Minish in regards to how he feels the finances of the local government are being administered. Given that the list of qualified personnel in-office had shrunk significantly, with no publicly stated plans of hiring a new finance clerk, Minish was not confident in the numbers that were crunched.
MSVW Reeve Bill Galloway stated at the Jan. 9 council meeting that what Minish said in public forum was inappropriate, and could even be construed as bullying an employee.
As part of his response, Minish said that Galloway misses the point of what he was trying to say. And, in the spirit of trying to bring some objectivity to my writing instead of neutrally waffling on an issue, I am going to agree that Galloway seems to miss the point.
Perhaps it was inappropriate to bring an issue like that up in such a public manner, and it is unfortunate that it needlessly embarrassed a municipal employee. But, from my point of view in the council chamber gallery week after week, what I?could see and interpret was Minish highlighting mismanagement at the council table. “Sloppy governance” was a phrase he used.
The blunders I’ve seen at the table do not communicate carelessness, but rather, improper organization, preparedness, and training. I?cannot imagine the amount of rules, accounts, and paperwork that municipal administration needs to keep track of, and up-to-date education and training leads to having the best available office staff.
Another point that Galloway seems to be missing is what my role is as a newspaper reporter. He claims that I “seized on the opportunity to speak to the councillor after the meeting”, as if I?was sniffing out a juicy piece of controversy. He also wrapped up a tense discussion with Minish in open council by saying “you probably got the headline again.”
While it is my job to make local issues interesting and accessible, it is not my job to kick up a stink where none needs to be smelled, and something smells off about a reeve that seems to view a diligent newspaper reporter as a lingering vulture.
I apologize if I have misconstrued your opinions Mr. Galloway because, as you said, “words matter” and “you shouldn’t believe everything you think”. For that sake,?I?have shared in my starandtimes.ca blog an unabridged and only slightly polished transcript of the tense discussion between Galloway and Minish during the Jan. 9 meeting. I have attached an unedited sound recording to go along with it for those who would rather listen in to the conversation.
First and foremost, I believe my role as a newspaper reporter is to inform the readers of things that I?feel matter to them, and to hold public figures to account for their actions while in office.
To reduce the risk of perpetuating my own opinions among the general public further, I ask readers and listeners to directly observe the evidence and form your own conclusions of what was discussed that evening.

Jeremy Bergen