It has been some time since I wrote this column, primarily because of space limitations over the past few months due to Cranston Fire aftermath coverage and the elections. We managed to cover 11 propositions, one measure and 12 candidates, the last two candidates in this week’s paper, thanks to JP and Marshall.
I found one of Ernie’s columns from Nov. 1, 1968, by chance when I was searching for something else, that reflects my thoughts exactly over the past few weeks. Was it just coincidence that I found this almost exactly 50 years later and everything about it strikes true today? Ernie, long gone, seems to be speaking directly to me. So, I decided to republish it instead of writing my own thoughts since he expressed it so well:
“Country editors have long been regarded as a breed of philosophers, a distinction that befalls anyone who must face and survive more than the usual volume of life’s vicissitudes. Editors learn to cope with human nature as part of gathering and publishing the news.
“Every news item has within it the seed of reaction and violence. What may seem like an innocent story turns out to be the spark that sets off an explosion among readers. Publish a misprint and the word is out that the editor possessed malicious intentions.
“Treat the material objectively and the editor is accused of straddling the fence. Take a side and he’s [or she’s] unfair. Quote a person and he’s [or she’s] offended. Leave out a name and someone is offended.
“The newspaper business is one of the few commercial ventures in which the public has a strong voice. Customers don’t just fade away, they fire away. But try to please them all and the newspaper gets a reputation of being wishy-washy. A strong position on anything leads to accusations of dictatorship.
“Consequently, the small town editor develops a special kind of philosophy as a shield. Some take the short route to drink or add a gruff exterior to hide true feelings. An editor must be sensitive to catch the heartbeat of a community, and yet he [or she] must be agile so that he [or she] doesn’t get caught with his [or her] feelings extended. A part of his [or her] insides must be locked up.
“There are many occupations which call for the same actions, but we’re not seeking any of them. We’ve enough to cope with for a lifetime. What relieves the situation for editors now is the fact that the heat’s on politicians. They need both a rugged constitution and a philosophy of reinforced concrete to face the public.”
Ernie Maxwell, Editor
[Becky Clark, Editor, seconds that]