A couple of weeks ago, I wrote in this space about some reasons you should consider public service by running for elected office.
It’s not for everybody. First of all, you have to be able to stomach a campaign.
Then, if elected, at a minimum you have to fulfill your legally required duties and serve your constituents honorably and ethically.
Good reasons to run include a strong desire to serve the community and to share skills and knowledge acquired in private business.
But plenty of people choose to run for bad reasons: revenge or retribution, perceived power or to “fix” a single issue that may or may not be broken.
“Why” is perhaps the most important question that journalists ask. It’s also a good one for voters to ask candidates.
As we head to the polls, some lessons from a reporter’s playbook can come in handy.
One is to evaluate your source of information. Is it credible? Is it backed up with verifiable facts? Where is the proof?
Photos and documents go a long way in establishing verity.
Second-hand information – we call that “hearsay” – gossip and rumors may be interesting, but basing a news story or vote on it would be foolhardy, to say the least. After all, the best rumors have a hint of truth to them and that’s why they may be believable in the first place.
Be incredulous. An old saying in the newspaper business is, “If you mother tells you she loves you, check it out.”
That means verify information. Ask someone else in the know. Still unsure? Keep asking questions.
And here’s a tip: No one responds well to demands and “loaded” questions. Contrary to what some might think, journalists typically don’t badger subjects they are interviewing. Yes, they might ask increasingly tougher questions, and they can be persistent.
But nothing shuts down an interview faster than rudeness and accusations.
Cub reporters are taught to be polite when asking for information, give people time to respond thoughtfully and listen carefully. Good advice for anyone, especially if you have a need to ask tough questions.
Do people lie? Of course they do; some do it on purpose and others inadvertently or by omission. Do multiple people lie about the same thing in exactly the same way? Probably not.
Vast conspiracies are, in actuality, extremely rare. One aspect of the human condition is that we don’t like keeping secrets. Someone almost always tells someone else.
We should know that – we live in a small town. It’s hard to not know things sometimes.
And, finally: Journalists are notoriously skeptical, it’s a hazard of the job. But there’s a good reason for the phrase “healthy skepticism.”
So, you know how this ends: If it sounds too good to be true …
Gwin Grimes is editor and publisher of the Alpine Avalanche. She can be reached at email@example.com, 432-837-3334 or 118 N. 5th St.