Being a nag is an important job
There was something terribly familiar about the movie “Cats and Dogs” – something about the inherent distrust between two species which are symbiotically linked – that reminds me of the relationship between public figures and journalists.
On the one hand, nothing would ever get done in this world were it not for those who take chances or those with a new plan. It takes courage to publicly champion a position, no matter what a person’s motive. Taking the kinds of risk that could provoke criticism requires a strong belief in oneself, and an even thicker skin.
Visionaries are by nature risk takers. But taking a risk or having the courage to champion a cause has always been more admirable to me than those who are content to allow others to make the big moves. Most people don’t want the headaches that come with trying to change something. That’s why so few are willing to hold a public office or be responsible for a public agency or project. Only when decisions impact their pocketbooks or their neighborhoods do they rear up with outrage.
Not journalists, especially columnists. We are expected to rear up with outrage on a daily basis. It’s our job to find the mistakes, the miscalculations, the misjudgments, misconduct, even the miscreants. It is our job to question, to decry, to demand from those who are visionaries or leaders. We are the nudges, the nags.
Journalists are the check of power in a democracy, particularly when it comes to public money. It’s just as important nationally as it is here at Tahoe. It is our job to ask the questions that others are far too uneasy to ask.
This tenuous relationship between public figures and journalists isn’t suppose to be personal, any more than is Fido’s perpetual chasing of Kitty. But try telling that to Kitty.
As a journalist I have a right to hold those accountable for promises made but not kept. I have a responsibility to question projects, especially those that involve public funds.
As a human being, I have a responsibility to remember behind each public figure is a person with feelings and beliefs. People aren’t disposable commodities to be used up and tossed aside. Those who show the courage of their convictions are to be admired, not berated.
A good columnist must remember that holding a person, organization or government entity accountable doesn’t mean indiscriminately hammering on a human being.
In my newest evolution as weekly columnist at the Tahoe Daily Tribune, I will be questioning our community and its leaders, its ideas and its principles on a weekly basis. I will be asking the questions others don’t want to ask and challenging the assumptions all too often taken for granted.
But it is so much easier to tear down than build up. And that’s something I hope I never forget, even as I chase a few cats up the tree.
Claire Fortier can be reached at the Tahoe Daily Tribune, (530) 541-3880, ext. 221, or at her office, (530) 542-4838. She is also available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For those who wish to discuss a letter to the editor or the content of the editorial page, please contact Managing Editor Christina Proctor, (530) 541-3880, ext 253, or Night Editor Tim Parsons, (530) 541-3880, ext. 237. Letters to the editor can be faxed to (530) 541-0373 or emailed to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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