Let me tell you how nice it is to be me.
It’s pretty nice.
Wait, so here’s more: As I’ve disclosed in this space before, I wasn’t always a famous newspaper editor of the most important newspaper in the Ozarks. No, no, it’s been a long and bitter climb to this lofty height and for awhile there I was doing police reports for the paper in Conway, the Log Cabin Democrat.
And in that role in some venues I would walk in, ask for reports, and not get an especially warm greeting. In fact I speak with reporters at other newspapers, and they don’t get what would be classified as a warm greeting at their respective beats in their respective cities. It is, after all, a weight of the modern era where “the media,” (whatever that means) is painted as some opposing enemy force.
But here, here in Van Buren County, if you’re the newspaper guy the doors are wide open.
I mean that in a good way. I can walk into any law enforcement agency in the county and be, well, greeted. I can show up at any government board meeting, same deal. In time, now that I’ve been at this for a couple years in Van Buren County, I’ll even have the time to chat with whomever, find out what’s going on, get some, as they’re called in the trade, leads on stories, and otherwise interact.
And I realize, reading that, it means that my job isn’t as hard as it could be. And yeah, fine, that’s not wrong, but here’s the penultimate point: What this really means, this open access, is that the people doing the things, the enforcing laws, the enacting laws, budgets, policies, want you to know what’s going on.
You, you see, this is about you.
Here’s why it matters that in this community, this county, its cities, people are keeping the cards above the table.
A study came out last week, reported upon in The Guardian, in turn about a study by Paul Gao with Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, that the cost of local government goes up when local newspapers aren’t there to cover it. While the study was directed at the growing problem of newspapers in small communities going out of business, taking a step back you see the real issue: Government not overseen is government unchecked is government spending unchecked.
Government unchecked is government more expensive, being the (painting broadly) outcome here.
So what does it mean if the guy with the newspaper can come in, shake hands, chat, then take notes and pictures as the meeting unfolds, and that those who participated in the meeting will take the time to chat afterwards, tie up any loose ends and all that?
Cards above the table, in other words, means they don’t mind you (us) knowing what those cards cost or where they’re being placed.
That’s a nice situation to be in. So just like this week where I asked for a report on a fight at the jail, sat down with the city council up in Fairfield Bay, heard what had to be heard at the Public Safety Commision meeting, it’s all people who don’t mind you knowing what’s going on.
At the end of the Public Safety Commision meeting co-chair Justice Mary Phillips and I were chatting (because, again, everyone’s keeping the cards above the table) and she said “It’s really good to see the community work together.”
Say what you will about the economy, say what you will about the times we’re in, say what you will about any of it, but the one thing we for sure have going for us: Everybody’s keeping their cards above the table and working at working together.
And, experience talking here, we could have it worse.