It’s our job to report news —good or bad

Published 6:22 pm Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Comedian Red Skelton had a quick response when one of his jokes bombed and the audience groaned, “I just do ’em, folks, I don’t explain ’em.”

Sometimes I find that I could use that response when people complain about a story or ask why we did or didn’t cover something.

A lot of times, the anger over an article is more a case of shooting the messenger, rather than sit and take a look at an article with an open mind. Sometimes the article involves and event affecting a business or an individual. Sometimes, the anger comes as a response to an article that surprises someone, or from a business owner who wanted to wait to tell their clients they were closing their business and were beaten to it by the “media.”

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I recall a story about a dentist in north Alabama who lost his license for a year. The paper I worked for at the time received information about the dentist, got confirmation from the state dental association and wrote the story. The dentist got upset and griped, complained and threatened. At first, he said he had an agreement with the dental association that they would not release the information, then finally admitted he was going to wait and tell his patients and we basically beat him to it.

Newspapers and the reporters who work for them are 99 percent of the time in a
“damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. In other words, we are constantly called to write about people and events that can involve strained or skeptical opinions on both sides. Cover the story and you’re biased against the person or business; don’t cover it and you’re covering up something.

Some people carry the impression that their local paper should only cover the “good news” and do everything they can to boost the city and ignore the problems. When articles about crime or businesses failing appear, the paper is perceived as being negative.

I once had a politician call me up to complain about a story and tell me, “You didn’t make me look good.” I carefully explained to him it wasn’t my job to make him look good. I’ve also had people complain that I put something they said in the paper because it made them look stupid. A reminder usually follows, “If you don’t want to see it in the paper, don’t say it.”

Folks, the job of a newspaper or a television newsroom is to report the news — good or bad, positive or negative. It is hoped that presenting what’s going on in our communities will help inspire people to get involved in their community and work with the city fathers to improve the problems and enhance the good things going on in the city.

This ain’t easy. I’m not perfect, and after 44 years of marriage I know I’m not a mind reader. I only hope that doing what I do can make where I live better.

John Surratt is a staff writer at The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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