September 21, 2023
Margaret Thatcher famously said "If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing." Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Thatcher was the first woman to lead any large country and became known all over the world as "the Iron Lady". A nickname she relished. One would think that she would have been heralded as an icon of feminism, yet the fact is that she did not engage women as her peers, and she didn't noticeably intervene on behalf of women. Do you know why? Because that wasn't what she was "hired" to do. She was elected to lead a country. She did what she was required to do, not what people wished she would do.
The Sidney Sun-Telegraph is Cheyenne County's community newspaper. We report on the goings-on in the area. We are not now, nor have we ever claimed to be in the business of making people like us. We also have never purported to be a crack-reporter having, "All The President's Men" staffing, investigative mouthpiece for the downtrodden. Yet we have recently been accused of being none of those. Our accusers would be correct: we're not.
A select few are demanding we find and uncover all the seedy underbelly workings of the area. That we expose the Mighty Morphin Power Players perpetrating all of the suspicious and nefarious antics supposedly going on behind the backs of local citizens. Well here is the real deal. Our main goal is to highlight and report the local news. The couples celebrating 75 years of marriage is news. The local athletes and teams winning state titles is also news. We are reporting on new businesses in the area and what transpired at local board meetings. Sometimes the news isn't good, like accident fatalities, crop failures, or changes in regulations that will hurt local farmers.
Occasionally reporting local news requires us to go deeper, but any investigation we do is going to be thorough. We can't take one or even two examples of misdeeds or inaction as "proof." Is there questionable behavior on behalf of some in power? Heck yes there is. Has it caught our attention and are we looking into it? You betcha. But there must be multiple instances of people coming forward with similar scenarios in order for us to prove an unquestionable pattern of dereliction or avoidance of duties. Each of those occurrences will need to be verified and documented to submit as proof so that we can escalate the investigation; all of which has to happen before anything can go into print. That takes time. Sometimes, a lot of time. So while some people are claiming we are not doing our jobs because nothing has been printed, the absence of those "investigative articles" actually proves we are doing our jobs because we are making sure we can back it all up. "We print no news before its time", to turn an old phrase.
In some instances, we are accused of not reporting on specific incidents that have supposedly taken place. If what is being claimed to have happened and what we uncovered to have actually happened are two different things, then we will not print anything. We are not going to back up lies and misrepresentation of facts just so that people will "like us". Call us every name in the book, it isn't going to happen.
The name calling and insults do not bother me as editor of this paper. In my youth I played "dozens" so I've heard worse from better, trust me. What does bother me is the obvious lack of concern for the greater good of the very same community for which they claim to be fighting. The Sun-Telegraph has been in operation for 150 years; we are the first and longest continually operated business in Sidney. The calls for people to boycott us, to not support us, to cancel subscriptions and advertising simply because we will not be bought off or refuse to be "in the pocket" of anyone does far more harm to this community than people realize.
Local community newspapers are the last vestiges of unbiased reporting. To be clear, the definition of unbiased will never be "what you always want to hear". Sometimes you will love what we print, sometimes it may upset you, but that is how a person knows it is unbiased. If any one faction is always happy with what is between the pages of a newspaper, then something is horribly wrong.
If anyone claims to love a community but is demanding repercussions against its local paper simply because personal agendas are not being favored, the community better wake up and realize that those people are not only a threat to the loss of the free press, but a threat to democracy itself.