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BJ DRYE COLUMN: Serving community interests is not easy

Staying neutral seems to always be a work in progress.

Some news organizations lean left, some lean right, some claim to be “fair and balanced,” others tout themselves to be “your most trusted news source.”

B.J. Drye

I received a note this week, and I will leave her name out of it since she will most likely get attacked for her opinion.

The email said “thank you for raising the quality of our newspaper! The SNAP has, in my opinion, improved significantly both in content and writing — and I feel like it exhibits a real effort to educate and to serve community interests.”

Some people will agree with that comment and others will continue to bash us for being the “liberal news media.”

Actually, we are possibly the least liberal we have ever been in terms of employees. We have Democrats, Republicans and Unaffiliated.

In my 21 years at The SNAP, I have experienced a range of political exposure.

We once had a news editor who told us not to vote because it could influence how items like county commission, city councils and school board were covered.

I was always taught to keep opinion out of news stories. My reporters can tell you that I sometimes edit their stories a little heavy on the use of adjectives because that can sometimes be viewed as opinion, even if it’s just trying to describe something.

I would guess that many of our publishers have been Republican or leaned that way. Views from editors and reporters have been all over the place. There certainly have been enough viewpoints throughout the company to keep things interesting, even though you really shouldn’t talk about your political views — at least that’s what I’ve always been told, that and religion.

I’ve tried to keep both of those to myself. I know where I stand on these issues and that’s good enough for me.

So not talking about politics is really hard in 2020, especially since everything seems to be politicized.

Even COVID-19.

If you believe in mask wearing you are sometimes considered a left-wing extremist and if you believe your freedoms are being taken away by people asking you to wear a mask you are labeled a right-wing radical.

I don’t know why people can’t just wear a mask to show they care about other people. Nurses and doctors have to wear them for hours at a time.

How would you like it if your dentist coughed in your mouth the whole time she was looking at your teeth?

One thing that does concern us is the openness of local schools. Parents have a right to know if their school has cases. But we are not going to report on rumors. We must have verification, either through local school systems or the health department, to run with a story. We encourage parents to send us copies of any letters, emails or phone calls to help us track any cases.

In case you haven’t noticed, we have trimmed back our coverage of COVID.

Oh, it’s still here. We are just trying to make sure we don’t overexpose it.
If you write about something too much, it can blend into the background and not have as much of an impact.

However, we will still report on outbreaks of cases and ways people are coping with the virus.

B.J. Drye is general manager and editor of The Stanly News & Press. Call 704-982-2123, or follow bjdrye1 on Twitter.