The newspaper is not the town's police officer.
I wish I could say that people didn’t try and use the newspaper as a threat or as a bad guy against another person or entity.
Quality journalists don’t use their wordsmithing abilities to seek vengeance on a person or entity.
The reporting should serve a public good — exposure of political corruption, discrimination or to help improve human rights violations.
Just because a business doesn’t serve the type of bread you like, doesn’t mean it is discriminating against you.
Further, it is the responsibility of the aggrieved to take the first steps. Journalists are not an individual’s citizen’s sword and shield.
Last week, I received multiple calls asking for the newspaper to step in on issues. When I explained why the newspaper couldn’t, the callers were upset.
When I explained that we cannot tell a private business how to operate. No civil rights were being violated and no one was in danger, the person was indignant. “But I don’t like their policies. I want you to fix it,” the caller said.
Another caller wanted us to get involved with an issue with some town officials. From the story that evolved as we spoke, I gleaned that there were issues on both sides and I suggested that they seek remedy outside of town.
A third caller to the paper was upset that we wouldn’t do their work for them. Look, we have no problem reporting or investigating an issue, but we cannot be used as a line of defense. A newspaper and its writers are not weapons.
I welcome these calls. It is good for us to keep our finger on the pulse of the community. Sometimes bad news about a seemingly well-run company is the first indicator of systemic problems in the business.
Also, we want to know if our public bodies are misbehaving.
So please don’t stop calling. Just don’t be angry if we are unable to help you.
Louis Brandeis coined the metaphor “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants” in a 1913 Harper’s Weekly article.
When we write about certain issues, it is because there is an impact on the community, a violation of a local or state law or regulation by a public figure or public body, an impact on tax dollars or something else a long those lines.
By printing the article, we hold the public officials accountable and show the taxpaying public what is happening. We cannot impose a fine, or have someone removed from office. Those decisions are made at a higher level.
The judgement by the court of public opinion is handled by you the reader, not us. No one is more disappointed in an elected official or public person or tax-funded employee who does something wrong than us.
The electorate trusted you and you violated that trust.
That contract between the two was violated. And yes, sometimes journalists are the ones that show the fracture. We didn’t cause the break, we just brought it to the public’s attention.
And sometimes the public just doesn’t care.
And that’s OK.
As a community newspaper, we have to show the public what is happening. We are not the judge and jury.
Let me go back Justice Brandeis.
“Justice Brandeis believed a democratic society depended on individual rights such as freedom of speech and the right to be let alone. But democracy also entailed responsibilities. ‘The most important political office is that of the private citizen,’ Brandeis wrote early in his career,” from brandeis.edu.
I believe the closer you are to government, the more power the local citizenry has.
I call upon all citizens of Hammonton to hold all political figures accountable and this newspaper.
Call me anytime at (609) 704-1940 with your questions and your complaints.
Gina Rullo is the editor-in-chief of The Hammonton Gazette. In 2022, she was named an “Editor Extraordinaire” by Editor & Publisher Magazine and in 2021 won two awards for investigative journalism.