It’s always interesting, and amusing, to hear how we operate here.
A few weeks ago I was told in no uncertain terms that a reader knew all about my secret meetings with the Westerly Town Council. Meetings the council calls in order to give me my marching orders for coverage.
Earlier this week I heard that we block the reader comment option on some stories based on demands from the council.
These are new charges. In the past, and for quite some time, I was hearing that I was taking marching orders from Chuck Royce of the Ocean House and others in the Watch Hill community. Many in Watch Hill likely would differ.
There have been other accusations over the years and from other towns. The demise of former Stonington First Selectman Ed Haberek was an interesting time, with charges flying all over the place. We’ve been hit pretty hard in years past from Charlestown, too, where the passion can make Westerly seem pretty vanilla.
Such charges are amusing because in most of these cases I hear similar complaints from “the other side.” These conversations allow me to indicate to the caller that the paper is apparently right smack in the middle of both sides of an ongoing issue, which is where we’re supposed to be. Which is on neither side in our news coverage. Editorials are another matter, and in these we do generally come down on one side or the other or urge both sides to work it out to the benefit of the greater good.
Readers involved in contentious issues tend to read news accounts with their own biased eyes and I, we, get it. If a project is threatening my home it’s going to be difficult for me to see any value in it or any legitimate reason why the town should allow something that’s going to disrupt my peace no matter what the zoning regulations say.
All of this is what contributes to making this such an interesting business. You pick up the phone and hear what you’ve done and why.
And all of this is to say, of course, that none of it is true. So back to the top. The Town Council sets its own agenda, not ours, which I believe the vast majority of readers understand.
And regarding reader comments, we don’t pick and choose which stories are open to commenting. All stories have the option. Although I admit that I think our software system has some favorites from time to time, except there’s no rhyme or reason to it. We did install a new editorial software system in October and despite a fairly smooth transition considering the complexity of the task, there were some rough spots. We’re still ironing out some kinks as they crop up.
We are all — in any workplace — beholden to technology and its glitches. It’s just that a news organization’s glitches are more public than most. And I promise you, no one is more upset when a software problem pops up than the people who work so hard here to be fair and objective in reporting the news.