The News Bulletin’s “From the Pulpit” features inspirational parables or messages from north Okaloosa County ministers.
Saturday, (“Family values shape the nation’s future,” Page A5), Okaloosa Baptist Association missions director Eugene Strickland suggested that home life, family influence and faith in a higher power can help shape the nation.
Though not exclusive to Christians, instilling in children ideals such as honesty, charity, respect, kindness and forgiveness can make a world of difference.
Forget the Crusades, the Inquisition and other historical events contrarily begun in Christianity’s name; such incidents counter these ideals. Espousing values and passing them on to future generations — within a Christian household or not — contributes to a closer community of residents who respect each other.
Every day we see the difference. Pessimism, jealousy, power plays and rivalries arise where faith, hope and mutual respect are scarce; where people judge others because of differences rather than work through opposing worldviews; and where selfish pursuits surpass the greater good.
For the News Bulletin’s part, we constantly balance the scales as we strive to inform the community about serious, often contentious topics, which can’t be ignored, while ensuring overall coverage tells north Okaloosa’s complete story, including developments that bring pride to the community.
Government and business reporting, along with occasional editorials, must be fearless and cover all sides with due diligence, taking care to not sensationalize issues or inadvertently present caricatures of real people.
Strickland’s column hit home because my Catholic faith daily guides decisions in my work and personal life.
That doesn’t mean the News Bulletin has a certain worldview; it shouldn’t, and it doesn’t. However, particularly on the tough issues, we strive to report with compassion, as opposed to sensation — ensuring staff reports have factual support, evenhanded coverage and purpose other than to fill pages.
National news outlets increasingly take alternative approaches that feel like media malpractice.
Take David Gregory asking The Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald on “Meet the Press” whether his reporting constitutes “aiding and abetting” NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
Such accusations would have caused a chilling effect for landmark investigative reporting, namely with Daniel Ellsberg’s leaking of the Pentagon Papers. The question seemed political, having no basis in reality, kowtowing with a federal push to diminish the media’s role, as seen with the government’s probe of Associated Press phone records.
It was a loaded question, of the “have you stopped beating your wife?” brand that colleges teach journalism students to avoid but national reporters use anyway.
Then there’s the nonstop Paula Deen coverage, which aims to crucify the chef and TV host based on repugnant remarks that she may have made 30 years ago, for which she has apologized.
Initial coverage of the court case alleging racial and sexual discrimination is merited, but should news organizations bring in a panel of imaging experts to deconstruct and judge Deen’s apology on the “Today” show?
Maybe I oversimplify things but a heartfelt apology is a heartfelt apology, and people deserve second chances if they show or attempt to show genuine remorse. I’d be able to understand critics’ efforts to boycott and trash Deen if she told Matt Lauer she stood by her alleged, racially tinged remarks, but that wasn’t the case.
So is it necessary to rake a 66-year-old grandmother — that’s who she is first, before a businesswoman — over the coals in this manner? Particularly with millions reading and watching such so-called expert analysis, feeding the masses opinions about someone they don’t personally know?
There’s that attempt to offer second chances and forgiveness again, and I’m struck by how much Strickland’s words ring true.
Certainly, being a public figure like Deen entails plenty of scrutiny and, at times, adversity. It’s no different with our local leaders since the position comes with perceived power. However, north Okaloosa is a small community, so we try to balance reporting with perspective.
Saturday, we reported on one resident’s critique of the Crestview City Council, but other government stories focus on less heated, business-as-usual topics. Wednesday’s edition will include a roundup of community leaders’ summer reading lists, including comments from some of our city leaders, which further helps readers see our public servants as more than politicians who often receive deserved scrutiny for their decisions.
I like to think we go the extra mile, and try to present a well-rounded picture of the north county: the highlights, lowlights and everything in between.
When we have newsroom discussions to determine whom to contact, what facts to gather or test, or how to re-word something with neutrality, I have faith that it’s because each of us learned to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Then I wish those larger news organizations would do the same.