• Gabriel Donio

There’s nothing wrong with being called a gadfly


Merriam-Webster's definition of the word “gadfly.” (Courtesy Photo)

I took some time last week to look up the definition of the word “gadfly.”


The first definition was what you’d expect. Actual flies that bite and annoy livestock.


It was the second definition of the word that I was seeking from Merriam-Webster.


The second definition was:


“a person who stimulates or annoys other people especially by persistent criticism.”


Depending on your point of view, the term “gadfly” can have a negative or positive connotation.


When it comes to covering government, gadflies can be useful. They tend to be focused, (some say single-minded or even obsessive) and they have an overdeveloped sense of fairness and umbrage.


Most people don’t want to take the time to sit in meetings or research what people in government positions are doing, especially if it means sorting through boxes of paperwork.


The desire for knowledge—and telling others about that knowledge once it’s found—is in the gadfly’s DNA. Doing boring drudge work while chasing down information leads to the truth, which is exciting to the gadfly.


And the truth is the goal of people who want to make a positive difference in their communities. That research does lead to change, even in the face of people who think nothing will ever change.


I recall there have been plenty of occasions when people told this newspaper “you can’t fight city hall.”


Maybe not. But, taking on the theme of this column, you certainly can annoy city hall, especially by asking for truthful answers to honest questions. Government needs to have checks and balances. Newspapers like this one know the First Amendment of the United States Constitution makes a free press possible in this country. The same amendment grants citizens of this country the right to petition their government for a redress of grievances. The Freedom Forum Institute’s website states that “‘Petitioning’ has come to signify any nonviolent, legal means of encouraging or disapproving government action, whether directed to the judicial, executive or legislative branch.”


The Greek philosopher Plato said: “Truth is its own reward.”


You’ve heard it before, I’m sure. But think about what it really means.


For people who search for the truth on a regular basis, it means having the truth is invaluable.


They don’t need anything else once the truth is revealed to them. Everything makes sense.


During the last couple of decades, I would have liked to have been a gadfly on the wall of plenty of government meetings—whether they were held in the back room or the front room.


Now that I think of it, sometimes I have been.


Someone needs to watch, and learn, and let people know.


Wherever people gather in power, history shows there have been people who want no one to know what they’re doing. They have their agendas, their plans are formed and set and they’re hoping no one is watching. Watch the news, read a newspaper or look online for stories of the ones who are caught doing something they shouldn’t in a government position.


Sometimes, it’s a gadfly who helps catch them.


Maybe you’re a gadfly, too.


It’s a good club to join.


A piece of advice, though, before you start buzzing around: watch out for the fly swatters and keep those wings moving.




Gabe Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.