I don’t usually write about anything when I am emotional. I tend to say things I don’t mean or just say whatever comes pouring out of my heart and my soul. That often gets me into trouble but then sometimes it can help clear the air. It is the latter that I hope this does.
You see, I am passionate about a lot of things. My family. My friends. Helping those who need it. My beliefs. My faith. NASCAR. Being an organ donor. The Clemson Tigers.
But the one thing I am the most passionate about is community journalism. And that deep-burning passion means that I am passionate about The Union Daily Times, which has been my home since Aug. 27.
So it is that we are here today – me writing a column and laying my soul out there for all to see. Judge me if you will. Throw stones at me if you like. But when it comes to this paper, you’d better have more to throw at me than preconceived ideas about how we operate.
Some of you might be wondering what I’m talking about. Well, just so we are all on the same playing field, let me lay it out here for you:
The Union Daily Times, like every other newspaper in America, had an election to cover Tuesday night. We had a plethora of local elections – clerk of court, sheriff, county council, mayor of Union, school board, Carlisle. As your daily newspaper, you expect that from us. And you should. For us to not provide you with the results of those elections would mean we would be remiss in doing our jobs.
While our main focus was – and should have been – local elections, we also gave some ink to how Union County voted in the Presidential Election. You know the one – Barack Obama versus Mitt Romney. And we gave it placement above the fold, the so-called golden area of a newspaper. We also put the story about Freddie Gault winning – and making history, to boot – above the fold and the re-election of Mayor Harold Thompson above the fold.
So when our phones started ringing with complaints from readers about us not having any coverage of the presidential election in our paper, I admit I was taken aback. People were calling to ask why we didn’t have any coverage of the presidential election in the paper. Some were polite, others, well, not so much.
Caller: I am a concerned citizen and I didn’t see where the Times had any coverage of Barack Obama in the today’s paper.
Me: We did, ma’am.
Me: On the front page.
Caller: But that’s the local results. There is nothing in the Times about Barack Obama being re-elected.
Me: They didn’t officially call the election until after we had gone to press.
Caller: So you couldn’t wait?
Me: No, ma’am. We had a deadline we had to meet to get the paper printed.
Caller: Oh. So you couldn’t have waited until they did?
Me: No, ma’am. It was after 1 a.m. before they officially called the race.
That was typical of a number of calls. But one person came into our office to find out why we didn’t have Barack Obama being re-elected in our paper. So I explained by telling him the same thing I had told the caller above.
He asked: The Spartanburg Herald had it, why didn’t you?
I explained: Our press time (when the paper has to be rolling on the press) was before they officially called the election.
He asked: Why was the story about Freddie Gault at the top of the page and the story about the mayor being re-elected not.
I explained: Freddie Gault made history with his election as the first Republican elected to a county office in Union in 136 years.
So far, I was 0 for 3.
But then he said this: He said there was talk of a boycott of our newspaper because we didn’t carry a story that Barack Obama had been re-elected. He all but accused us (The Union Daily Times) of being racist with our actions. And then he threw that boycott word at me again. So just like that, he was 0 for 3. In my book, we were even.
I also got a call from a woman who asked the same questions but she asked for a completely different reason: She wanted to know so she could explain it to people when they started bashing us. She wanted to know the “why” before she started throwing rocks. Her comments gave me all the validation I need for doing my job, for being as passionate as I am about growing this paper and about making The Times the best newspaper in this county.
Charles Warner, Derik Vanderford, Misti Burr, Tiffany Grady-Hudgins and Greg Addison are some of the best people I have ever worked with in my career. Your Union Daily Times is operated by a staff that has more than a corporate tie to this county. We have a lifelong, lifetime, deep and passionate desire to do the best job we possibly can for you, our readers and members of our extended family.
Bottom line, the true relationship between a newspaper and its community is a lot like a family: sometimes we make you happy and sometimes you just don’t want to sit beside us at supper. We get that. But that doesn’t mean we won’t pass you the gravy when you ask for it.
And for the man who came into our office, I get where you were coming from. You probably didn’t think I did but I did. After all, when the smoke clears and the hurt feelings and misunderstood intentions fade, don’t we all want the same thing – to be heard, to be respected and to make a difference?
Now, who’s going to pass me the pie?
Patricia Edwards is the general manager of The Union Daily Times and the group editor for Heartland Publications’ S.C. Newspaper Group. She can be reached by phone at (864) 427-4242 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.