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When I was a junior in high school, my family moved from the community I had grown up in to a new place an hour and a half away.
Being the new kid in a new school was difficult, but things got worse when a story appeared in the local newspaper.
Our newly constructed house was on a country lane just outside of town. It had a septic tank, which a neighbor contended had been incorrectly installed. I assume she watched the work being done from her house, although there were indications she just didn’t want the lot beside her developed.
She also claimed that the children of the house, me and my three brothers, were playing in waste.
Her claims were false, but the local paper printed them.
My brothers and I, already going through the trauma of the big move, were further humiliated when the article was printed.
I’m not judging the newspaper, because I know newspapers — especially smaller ones like this one — don’t have the expertise to be judges and juries in situations like this one.
Sometimes people make claims in which they are honestly mistaken. Sometimes people make false claims intentionally.
I have always tried to keep this in mind as a journalist and remember how we felt as kids.
Sometimes claims like those about our septic tank need to be aired — no pun intended — even if it isn’t known where the truth lies.
But we should also consider the impacts on those whose lives will be affected.
Sometimes we get calls from people asking to be left out of public record, including property transations and criminal court proceedings.
That is one area where we do not budge.
Public record is just that — something the public should have access to in its entirety.
Not only do we refuse to alter it in principal, it is a firing offense to do so at our news organization.
Bottom line is, don’t even ask.
Have you been to the Roane County News’ Facebook page?
It’s been around for a year or so, but we’ve decided we can do more with it.
We’ve recently asked reporter Cindy Simpson to oversee updates and help us reach more people through this social medium.
On Facebook, Cindy will be listing people whose pictures appear in the newspaper.
She’ll also find other ways we can interact with our readers and our communities.
If you are a Facebook user, we hope you will check out our page and “friend.”
Feel free to chime in on our page — and if you have some ideas for it, let us know.