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Tim Blagg

Blagg: Just doing our job

I thought I would wait awhile for the gigantic kerfuffel over the Al Norman/Town Council/Conservation Commission to die down before I weighed in with my viewpoint.

And a giant kerfuffel it was.

“How dare you ... !” letters and phone calls continued for days.

Well, we dared to point out that a document intended to be introduced to the town during a public hearing was first handed to Norman for his review, therefore interfering with the normal process — because that’s what local newspapers are supposed to do.

It’s The Recorder’s job to point out to the voters what their public officials are doing — right or wrong — so said voters can determine whether those officials are representing their interests.

That’s the root of why we exist — not simply to print lottery numbers or sports scores, or comics or entertainment calendars or the latest scandal involving Hollywood personalities — although we do those things, too.

That’s why the Founding Fathers put special protection for the press in the Constitution — to act as a watchdog for the public.

What many of those commenting on our stories missed was that the articles were not about the pros and cons of locating a “big box” store in town. And they also weren’t about Norman himself — or whether the self-proclaimed “sprawl-buster” should be involved in rewriting the town’s ordinances.

What we wrote about was the simple fact that the normal process wasn’t followed in this case. And then we asked various officials what they thought about that.

Some responded that they had no problem with it, others didn’t like it.

And then we opened our editorial page to anyone who wanted to record THEIR opinion about it.

And, of course, we also registered our own opinion, in a clearly labeled editorial.

Anyone who reads The Recorder regularly knows that this newspaper holds closely to the highest journalistic standards. We are regularly rewarded for this by our peers in the industry, who judge our work to be award-winning.

Two years ago, we were judged to be New England’s Newspaper of the Year in our size category, and I am confident that in the future we will win that award again.

All of that is based on our daily efforts to inform our readers — giving them both what they WANT to read and what we judge they NEED to read.

That mixture of good and bad news should, we hope, allow our readers to stay abreast of what local officials are doing in their name and with their tax dollars.

The Norman stories were simply the latest of many such involving communities in our area.

Naturally, given the high emotional content of the debate about big box stores in Greenfield, I wasn’t surprised at the reaction — even by the decidedly personal tone of the attacks on this newspaper — given the long, tedious nature of this contentious debate.

But I was disappointed by the inability of some to distinguish between public interest reporting and personal animus.

This trend toward immediately making any disagreement on public policy into a personal matter — and then attacking the person, rather than his or her stance on a question — is, in my opinion, one of the most serious and dangerous problems in the U.S. today.

It comes from the top down. That’s why so many long-time members of Congress are quitting. But you’d think that on the local level, where our neighbors are concerned, that we’d be able to avoid that trap.

It’s too bad we often fail.

Blagg has been Editor of The Recorder since 1986. He lives in Greenfield and is a military historian with an interest in local history. He can be reached at: tblagg@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 250.

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