Back in the days when I was a newspaper editor, that precarious time long ago in November 2016 when it seemed all but certain that the Green Bay Packers would miss the NFL playoffs, there were really only a handful of things I would tell reporters just starting at the Times-News. I’m talking beyond the standard, “five beers for lunch is probably not a good idea.”
It goes like this: “If you’re accurate, fair and work hard then we won’t have any problems.”
And that’s largely true for any reporter or editor — not just the expectation I have for those I worked with over the years. Nothing is more important than accuracy. It is followed in my book by fairness. And I’ll also add professionalism into the mix. If a reporter or editor is doing all of those things, then the hard work takes care of itself.
All of this is preface to a note I received in the mail at home the other day. It arrived via bulk mail in large envelope that obviously had at least one book in it. I didn’t recognize the return address.
So even though it was weird I opened it anyway. I like postal adventure.
There were indeed books in the package – two of the same volume, one for me and one for my spouse, Roselee. There was a short handwritten note with it. I recognized the writing and I smiled. It was from Robert Simpson, a longtime leader in the Alamance County Republican Party. Robert’s very conservative — a John Birch Society conservative. It’s a philosophy and he’s very serious about it. He devotes much of his time to studying and promoting his point of view.
And he’s so doggone nice about it. In a world where political views are verbal battle lines with few prisoners taken and virtual scars aplenty, he’s a notable exception — at least in my experience. That’s not to say Robert doesn’t get fired up now and then about something in the news but he never blamed us for reporting it. He’s always uncommonly friendly, even jolly, when I talked to him. We didn’t always agree. Fact is, we didn’t usually agree. I’m not philosophical politically. I take each issue one at a time, listen to all sides then pick what I think is the best way to go. Sometimes it comes out one way politically, sometimes another. Frustrates the hell out of people who like the partisan path.
So I always try to hear both sides.
I think Robert appreciates it. This is what he wrote.
I was mighty disappointed when I read you retired from the T-N, although I must say you probably did the right thing and I am certainly glad for you!
Nonetheless — you will be missed — at least by this “right-winger.” I always enjoyed working with you. I always found you friendly and professional.
God bless you and your family.
P.S.You & Roselee enjoy (I hope) the books and info!
I opened one copy of”The Shadows of Power” and wasn’t surprised to see that it was about the Foreign Relations Council and its conspiratorial role in U.S. government over the past decades. There was also literature from the John Birch Society. That’s Robert, still spreading the word and trying to reach like-minded folks.
I have to say that since I left newspapers late last year I have been gratified by the outpouring of respect, admiration and friendship that has come my way. So many people have written or said so many wonderful things about me it’s an endless source of pride and embarrassment. But right there with all of them will be this note from Robert Simpson. It tells me that in many ways I fulfilled — at least for one person — my goals of fairness, accuracy and professionalism. Not all would agree, I’m sure.
That’s the nature of the world today.
But Robert’s note also made me think about the current state of politics, media and journalism. In almost every way politicians complaining about otherwise accurate stories have planted the deep seeds of public distrust of reporting and journalism. To be sure there are questionable journalists but most don’t work for mainstream newspapers. In politics, blaming the messenger with vague and often unfounded criticism has become a route to success with public pulled in multiple directions by fake news online or on social media. It’s all a political smokescreen.
I look forward to the day when politicians are held to a standard. They could start with accuracy, fairness and professionalism.