Being fair, balanced is a balancing act

David Stevens

Our newspaper faces potential conflicts of interest almost every day.
Our news editor has close family ties with Clovis law enforcement.
Two staff members teach in the public schools.
Our religion writer is often a guest preacher at area churches.
And the editor’s cousin is a controversial figure with the Muleshoe police force.
Such conflicts can be a problem when questions come up about a newspaper’s ability to be fair and unbiased in its news coverage.
Our staff is too small — and the community is too small — to eliminate all the conflicts, but we try.
The news editor does not routinely write stories about cops or courts and his editing of such stories is usually limited to style and spelling.
Our teachers are almost never assigned stories related to Clovis schools.
The religion writer does not write about his guest appearances.
And when the Muleshoe police officer is in the spotlight, I step out of the news-gathering process and don’t even read the stories until they’ve been published.
None of those solutions shield the paper from allegations that we are biased in our news coverage. But I haven’t heard any better ideas.
We are all products of our environment and we are biased in ways we don’t even recognize. Most of us like football better than ice hockey; most of us celebrate Christmas, not Hanukkah; most of us prefer hamburgers over green peas.
That doesn’t mean we can’t write fair and balanced stories about hockey, Hanukkah and green peas — it just means we have to try harder.

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The front page of today’s paper includes a list of Curry County residents killed in war. Most of those names came from local historian Don McAlavy, who received them from state officials.
I hope we have not missed anyone.
If you see any omissions, please call and let me know. It is our intention to publish these names every Memorial Day. If the list is incomplete today, it will probably be incomplete next year, too, unless somebody lets us know.

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Project: Reader Reaction is a regular feature in which I ask readers questions and they respond by e-mail. Sometimes I ask about serious local issues, sometimes the questions are more fun.
Last week, one of the participants — Gerald Majewski — asked me a question.
He wanted to give a present to someone out of state and he wanted that present to be unique to Clovis. What would be the best gift?
I offered several suggestions:
n A copy of the Clovis News Journal (self-serving, but unique to Clovis);
n A feather from a peacock at the zoo (how many zoos have peacocks running around?);
n A tumbleweed;
n A Buddy Holly record (a CD won’t do it);
n A football autographed by Coach Eric Roanhaus and some of his all-state players.
I love the question and wish I could come up with better answers. Anybody have any ideas?

From the Editor’s Desk is a weekly memo to CNJ readers. David Stevens can be reached at 763-6991, extension 310, or by e-mail:
david_stevens@link.freedom.com