Comment - I'm not the Editor

By Bill Jackson - The Regional

February 25, 2009

As much as I often wish that I was the editor of this newspaper, for various reasons, I feel the need to set the record straight on my role and my control over its content.

First of all, I am a reporter, not an editor. It says so on our masthead if you take the time to look. Just because I write a weekly editorial, doesn't mean I'm the editor.

In many other newspapers it's common to see editorials that are written by editors, but there are also columnists and reporters who write them. Some newspapers that are big enough, usually the dailies,  have editorial boards with members that collaborate on such pieces to express the newspaper's views. Usually, unless you see a name beside it, the newspaper as a whole is directly responsible for the content and accuracy. My views are my own and that's why my name is affixed to them.

After more than five years at the paper I've learned to grow a thick skin and appreciate that everyone has an opinion, which may or may not coincide with my purview or beliefs. That's okay with me, because I'm not always trying to make people happy, even though I quite often do with what I feel are candid observations and critiques about issues in Haldimand and our society in general.

Outside of my assigned task to write a weekly editorial column, I cover most county council meetings, personal interest stories, some sports, cheque presentations, festivals, fundraisers, funding announcements, floods,, schools, business profiles, coming events, and issues involving our good friends on Six Nations that are related to Haldimand. The list goes on.

For one person it can be quite challenging at times given the breadth of such a large and diverse county like Haldimand. It's also a great experience each and every week, and I love my job. Yet like most others, it can also be frustrating.

I quite simply don't have the time to get to all the stories in Haldimand. I often wish that we had a daily paper in the area - as they do in Simcoe - so that our four weeklies in Haldimand could provide more comprehensive coverage on a more consistent basis without doubling and tripling up on our coverage of some issues. That's the reporter speaking, not the advertising department.

Some newspapers have regular columnists, more than one reporter, and editors who contribute to the editorial content, go out, and proactively seek it. Other papers have more news space to fill. Sometimes there isn't enough room to print the stories I write.

I spent an evening at the Caledonia Business Awards recently, took pictures of award winners and wrote a lengthy story outlining all the winners and their achievements. What appeared last week in our paper was half the story surrounded by ads and a story about the Ipperwash Inquiry that I didn't write.

When people call and ask me why there's a picture of a lifetime achievement award winner and no information on the winner in the story, I tell them to ask the editor. I can only write the story in its entirety. What goes in the paper is beyond my control.

Earlier this year I spent time at county council's final capital budget meeting. That week, my opinion on it made it onto the editorial page, not my news story. For some reason it ran the next week, after my column on it.

Again, all I can do is have the stories ready to go and hope they either run in unison, or in the right order, so that people understand my opinions and what they're based on, having read the story and knowing the background information first. When people ask me why they don't appear, or why they appear in parts, I tell them once again to ask the editor.

People also feel the need to blog about me and instruct others to email or call me about the content in this paper, such as Gary McHale's column that is now appearing on a weekly basis. Do I have control over that? No. Do I agree with it? It doesn't really matter.

I also play reader's advocate here at times, but I don't speak for my editor and I don't speak for McHale.

I am writing this column because I have fielded numerous calls recently regarding the content in our paper, including McHale's column. I'm also writing this because aside from thick skin I have developed when it comes to people's opinions, I also have self-respect and take pride in the news I write and the way it's presented.

I don't always agree with the content that is published by this newspaper, or by other newspapers for that matter, but I'm not responsible for it. I have limited control over it.

I take responsibility for my news stories, their accuracy and my views, but not the letters and news items that are sent in and get printed verbatim.

I'm stepping outside my normal realm of opinions on native issues, governments and teacher salaries this week, because it needs to be said. I am not the editor of this newspaper, just a reporter who happens to write an editorial column.

I have no problem standing behind what I write, not articles that I don't and those which don't appear.