It’s our job to investigate issues

An editorial from The Inter-Mountain

ELKINS, W.Va. — We live in a different sociopolitical world today than we did even just a few years ago.

In the age of social media, more than ever, political candidates always are subject to being analyzed in any and all public forums. When you put your name on a ballot for a public office, you open yourself up to all manner of scrutiny. That, as they say, is a fact.

Recently, a political candidate made some allegedly negative comments about an area pastor in the public setting of a local restaurant. The politician – when asked – indicated he does not recall saying anything positive or negative. However, it was reported that whatever was said was said loud enough to catch the attention of a staff member and friend of the pastor, who picked up the phone and informed him he was the subject of conversation.

Cue Facebook.

The pastor took to Facebook to defend himself, and the post prompted all manner of responses, including negatively taking to task both parties.

Here’s the kicker, when you engage social media, you’re engaging the media. What you post online can be read by journalists just as easily as the people on your list of online friends.

So don’t be surprised if something you post catches our attention. As journalists, it is our job – actually, it’s our duty – to ask questions when those questions are posed publicly. Sometimes those questions are in regard to the ethics of those who are running for or hold public office. Public servants – and public-servants-to-be – are held to a higher standard of conduct. What they do and say matters to the voters, whose job it is to elect them or remove them from office.

In this case, a political candidate’s conduct was called into question in a public manner. So, yes, we contacted this candidate to ask him what happened. And we talked to the pastor. We got both sides of the story. That is news. The very public nature of this discussion along with the involvement of a public figure is what makes that news determination.

Again, that also is our job – reporting the news, even when a person or persons doesn’t like it, questions our intentions or tries to employ tactics that are aimed at preventing us from engaging in the protected Second Amendment right of Freedom of the Press.

A newspaper investigates. A newspaper reports the findings. A newspaper then offers a forum for feedback.

And we’ve been taking our lumps for doing just that – our job. And, from what we understand, the pastor has been the subject of online bullying for making a post that caught the media’s attention.

While we don’t like to see anyone bullied, we absolutely will not back down in our questioning of those who hold or seek to hold public office. We’ve written and editorialized about this over and over again, particularly in the last few weeks. There have been cases of political candidates having their issues brought to light through social media. Often these exchanges have turned negative. It’s happened in Upshur County, Barbour County and, now, Randolph County.

Having a Facebook page is like having your own personal public relations firm. And social media is an outlet people can use to voice their political opinions. So when we see concerns about politicians or political candidates potentially acting in a manner unbecoming to their status, we investigate.

And we do not apologize for that. Nor will we be bullied into silence.

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