A call for conversation in 2019

Published 4:12 pm Friday, January 4, 2019

When I joined the ranks of the Selma Times-Journal two months ago, a few roadblocks to the essential tasks of news writing were made abundantly clear to me – if not explicitly, then implicitly through my own experiences – the most notable of which is the complete radio silence from city hall.

On my second day on the job, I was told plainly by an employee in the mayor’s office that there was, and would not be, any comment from the mayor’s office to the local newspaper. More recently, when contacting another department head in the city, I was told not to contact his personal email regarding city business – when I requested an alternate method of communication, I was simply told there would be no comment regarding the issue I was presenting due to “pending litigation.”

While it may seem that this sort of contention between reporters and the people they are tasked with covering is not uncommon – and, to be sure, it is not – there has always been an understanding between the press and their subjects that an open line of communication must be maintained for the good of both the press and those being covered, as well as the local population, which suffers the most when clear and accurate information can’t be readily acquired.

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It is my hope that, as 2019 dawns, these lines of communication between the local press and city government can be opened once again, that any perceived slight can be cast aside in the interest of presenting the people of Selma with accurate information, which is necessary for an informed populace.

To be fair, the newspaper has printed no shortage of articles that might be painful to the people running city hall. But the newspaper has consistently done its due diligence in attempting to contact those same people for comment and got either no comment, no response or a notice that the email or phone number was no longer active.

This is not an attempt to take yet another dig at city hall or the people who run it – after all, these are fellow citizens and human beings with their own concerns, feelings and struggles – but it is a plea that those who hold the welfare of the Selma people in their hands will work to establish at least a working relationship with their local newspaper.

It is a disservice to the people of this city for them not to hear from their elected leadership, as well as those who take part in the decision-making processes, regarding city issues such as lay-offs, finances, lawsuits and other delicate, but important, topics.

While our jobs may put as at odds with one another from time to time, and our roles may be adversarial on some topics, we are both tasked with serving the people of Selma and, to be done properly, that task requires transparency and communication.