How does one start an editorial? It is a question that I deal with every issue of The Nation. There is always something to say, but what is important to say? This week I am going to break one of our rules for this editorial. The rule is simple; we always try to give our readers the final say. This is why we don’t reply to letters unless they direct a question, have misinformation in the letter or have misunderstood something to a great degree. This policy, like others, may not be well-known, but it exists.
The reason why I’m breaking it is to clear up something. We have been accused of “negativity” in our reporting and I would like to share some of my feelings with you on that.
First off this isn’t an editorial to blast people. I commend all people who have written letters to The Nation. You show the sense of community and action (or reaction) I like to see. People who are willing to do something about what you see and feel.
I think that you are like me in that regard. When I see something that is beneficial and good for the community I will speak about it and I will give it my support wholeheartedly. When I see something that I feel is hurtful and bad for the community I will speak against it and work to end it. This is how we, as human beings, work to continue to make our communities grow and prosper.
When we had nothing but rumour, things would get distorted and our reactions to the situation could actually hurt the prosperity and growth of the Cree community.
The Nation and radio stations changed some of that. We provided accurate reports of what people were doing. We did not try to sugar-coat it because we, at The Nation, believe that our readers are mature individuals capable of being treated like adults who understand the world.
It is natural, though, to remember the so-called “bad” or “negative” stories. It is the reason why people will slow down to see an accident, are drawn to a fire, etc. Human nature is to learn from mistakes or the consequences of “negative” actions.
Surprisingly, some people don’t seem to learn from the good or at least remember it very well. We have had a surprising
number of stories that deal with people who could be termed role-models.
On the other hand, we have dealt with a number of issues such as family violence, AIDS and sexual orientation that we knew would be difficult for people to read about.
It is a tightrope to balance The Nation at times to put in everything. I remember one issue where I blasted a plan in an editorial only to write a story where the chief in question looked pretty good. The chief also didn’t really want to talk to me, but all who enter public office should remember one thing; you are no longer a private individual. You accepted a public life and shouldn’t be surprised to see yourself in the limelight, whether in a “good” or “bad” light.
Writing a balanced story can be hard in the best of times, but we face an especially difficult situation when one side in a news story doesn’t return phone calls or answer requests for information, as sometimes happens. In that case, we take steps that any responsible newspaper would take: we check and double-check all facts before printing them, we separate rumour from provable information, we give everyone ample opportunity to call us back and we contact other people who do provide us with missing information.
But through this all, one fact remains. By reporting the “negative” or “positive” actions of other people, it doesn’t mean we necessarily endorse those actions. Nor do we necessarily condemn them. We are merely communicating the information to you, our readers. And we hope to do this clearly, concisely, without hearsay or rumour, and with enough space for all sides of the story.
If we were not a fully independent business this might not have been possible. Then you might have gotten a newsmagazine filled with so-called “positive” stories with little substance. Just how “positive” is it really if we hide information from each other, even when that information hurts? Do we really want a Cree version of Pravda, the Communist propaganda organ? Cree life has both negative and positive aspects, and this magazine strives to reflect them. I welcome your input on this issue.