As I continue to weave myself into, and thereby discover, the wonderful communities of Waxahachie, Midlothian and of Ellis County, it has become evident to me that many of you value your community newspaper. Almost everywhere I go someone expresses interest in what we’re doing and where we’re headed. In response, from our open house in December to the countless presentations we’ve made in the past few months to the space we’ve used in our papers to conversations in the grocery store, we’ve been excited to share this evolution of ours.
While our evolution has everything to do with producing great content, delivering said content and how we implement our digital strategies, it has nothing to do with the overhyped predictions of the demise of newspapers. Ted Turner was wrong in 1980, internet developers were wrong in the 90s and those who’ve jumped on that bandwagon since are wrong today. When guys like Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos, who almost never buy just to flip companies, invest in newspapers, it should be an indicator of our steady value. Part of that value is found in the enormous strength we’ve gained on the digital front.
With that said, I’d like to share with you the principles upon which we’re built and why we remain strong. I do so humbly and with the awareness that you are why we’re here. I also recognize that you can make pretty clear the value you place on us with your pocketbook and that no customer of ours should ever be taken for granted. So, here are our principles – principles to which I’m asking you to hold us accountable:
We must be responsible in all we do. Until you’ve had the power of the pen in your hands, you may not have a full appreciation for the discipline it takes to never use that pen in any other way than a responsible one. Notwithstanding an opinion page or column like this where we share our views and opinions, we must be responsible 100 percent of the time. What you read in the stories we write is to be factual, accurate and void of bias. If a public figure or entity has or is doing wrong, we must report it … with intensity and diligence. If a government entity is out of line, we must report it. As Publisher of this company, if I commit a public wrong, it should be on page one the next day. It’s that simple and the reasons for it are vital to our place in this community.
We must be independent. Regardless of our associations, relationships and affiliations, we must report the news without any influence from those groups. We owe it to you to make sure we include every fact possible in every story we write despite any effort from those wanting otherwise. Sitting on the board of an entity, being a member of this club or that organization doesn’t give us a license or reason to write in a protectionist way. Facts matter and facts must rule the story.
We must be free. Freedom of the press is yours in this country. You should have a newspaper that isn’t intimidated, fearful, timid or inattentive. Instead, you should have a newspaper that is fearless, bold, strong, alert and courageous. We will be fierce in our commitment to being free and distinct from the government, local municipalities, powerful institutions and the like. You, the people and our readers, deserve a free press. I can assure you that you have one.
We must be truthful and accurate. When you read the Daily Light, the Midlothian Mirror or any one of our products, you must be able to believe it is true and accurate … always. Ninety-nine percent right is 100 percent wrong.
We must be unbiased. Asking hard questions, being detailed in our work, not being deterred by our own life experiences and putting aside any ulterior motive are characteristics of excellent journalism. I’ll admit that, as humans, we could easily allow bias to enter the story, but we are committed to checking all bias at the door as it were. Of course, we have an opinion page(s) and columns through which we can express our opinions, but you will know that before you read it.
We must play fairly. That is to say, we must be respectful, decent and fair. Not all stories are easily researched, investigated and written. People interviewed for stories aren’t always kind and many of those in the story can be difficult at best. However, our job is to be fair, to listen well, to give ample time to all sides of the story and to be balanced in what we write. In stories where it is important to keep sources confidential, we must do so with passion and honor and at all costs. Most sources are identified, but playing fair means being serious about confidentiality and good faith when it comes to how we interact.
As publisher of WNI, you have my commitment that we will be the kind of company that exhibits these tenets every day. I speak for Neal, our Editor/General Manager as well. Should there ever be a time when you believe we have fallen short, got it wrong, are missing something or you just want to express your thoughts, please feel free to call or write. My direct line is 469-517-1440, my cell is 205-331-7616 and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
You’ll have my undivided attention.
Scott Brooks is the publisher of Waxahachie Newspapers Inc. Contact Scott at 469-517-1440 or email@example.com.