Someone made a comment recently that it is not a reporter's place to speak or ask questions during meetings. This comment sort of rubbed me the wrong way for a few reasons. The biggest reason it bothers me is because it is our job to inform the public about what is happening. Why would a politician not want us asking questions?
I do agree that it is not a reporter’s job to create news, but I see nothing wrong with asking questions, especially at a public meeting. Usually when I cover meetings, I sit back and listen, but if I have a question I’m going to ask it. Asking questions is the main part of our job.
When you think of a reporter, most people associate them with asking questions, right? Y’all don’t think these stories just fall in our laps, right? You surely don’t think when we call or speak to someone they just give us every bit of information we want without us asking anything, right? It would be nice if people just ran up to us and told us everything we wanted to know. That would be super cool, but that is not how anything works. Sometimes even when we ask questions it is like pulling teeth to get the answers.
The way I see it is I represent the members of the county when I go to county meetings. I write what I think the public needs to know regarding the county because residents don’t always go to these meetings. The majority of the time I am the only other person at the meetings with the commissioners. I don’t blame most normal people for not wanting to attend. I get it. Most meetings are mind numbingly boring. During budget meetings last year, I had to bring my seat cushion to endure these over-two-hour meetings. They were brutal, but it is my job. I also attend the meeting one night and then listen to it again the next day. I get a double dose of nonsense but, again, it is my job.
This comment about how reporters shouldn’t participate in meetings wasn’t even directed toward me, by the way, but the person who it was directed at did nothing wrong in my opinion. Trying to figure out what in the world is happening in Rock Island currently is of interest to the public and I think any reporter or anybody there had every right to ask questions or speak at that sorry excuse of a meeting in Rock Island.
When I was at a dentist appointment a few months ago, I told my dentist a joke. I said we have something in common. No one likes when they have to see us. You may not like that we ask questions, just like we may not like when a dentist drills into our teeth, but it’s our job.
Standard reporter Bethany Porter can be reached at (931) 473-2191.