Radiogurl a la Carte

Thursday, Mar. 24, 2005
Conscientious Objectionable

Good grief. Sometimes I hate being the rational, impartial newsperson. (Don't laugh. Nobody is actually impartial, but I do manage to present that image on the air.)

As an impartial observer, I'm not really allowed to say that somebody is a self-serving, pompous ass. At least not verbatim on the air. All I have to do to get the point across is quote someone, normally, and they really say it for me by their own poor choice of expressions. But in this case I was more or less eavesdropping and it's a little fuzzy on how much to say or not say.

It is kind of an ethical quandary. I was sent a series of emails last night. I was one of a larger group - but I was the only recipient that wasn't a member of the organization. (I'm trying to keep from giving away too much because there is a HECK of a lot at stake in this mess.) Everyone involved in the mailing knows exactly who I am and what I do, and my name and email did appear on the CC (electronic carbon copy field.) I definitely didn't do anything wrong, and legally I could publish every word of every email that was exchanged and nobody could say boo about it. The information was provided to me voluntarily, even if it (probably) wasn't supposed to be.

But because I'm pretty sure that the information was intended to be confidential, I hesitate to publish the details. Unlike some news people, I normally consider private conversations to be exactly that - private. Besides, half of getting the story is building trust, which comes from balancing what you tell with what you DON'T tell. Blow off the trust, you kill who knows how many future stories. However, in this case it's a bit more of a sticky wicket.

See, this series of emails was an exchange between public officials, and when one tried to explain to the other that what he was doing might be legal but it certainly wasn't ethical, the other party became rude and downright verbally abusive. I knew about the animosity before but this went beyond a personal feud, because what the guy is doing IS dead wrong, and the implications of his actions could be staggering for tens of thousands of people.

There was no question about the things related directly to public concerns. Those go on the air and online, no question about it, precisely because so much is at stake. But it's the peripheral stuff that makes the difference. Do I report that this man is an irredeemable ass who has no business being in any position of responsibility? Do I report that he's conspiring to push through a personal agenda by making sure that a significant proportion of the elected board members are excluded from the process? (By the way, I didn't name names, but I did report that part because I think it's beyond reprehensible.)

I ended up writing two stories for on-air (that will air on two stations) and for the newspaper. I know that it'll run on both radio stations and I am pretty darned sure the paper will run the article. I don't even give a flip if they give me a byline this time, long as the information gets out.

Then again, this is politics. I guess you can't expect any conscience or sense of responsibility. I think the election process must leach both out of a person permanently.

Before - After

In the grander scheme of things, no soul can truly be replaced. Each one of us has a place in the universal tapestry. We each contribute our own color and texture. When one thread is snipped too soon, it distorts all the threads around it. Other lives can unravel and tear. If the wrong thread is ripped away, the whole fabric of life becomes dangerously fragile.
- LeiLani, aka Radiogurl aka Bright Opal (1957 - )