It's 6:30 a.m. and I feel like it's the first day of school. Lunch packed. Teeth brushed. Hair more or less combed, like that would do any good.
And here's the inaugural edition of For What It's Worth, the Indy editor's blog.
By nature, I'm a news reporter, not a columnist, which is why I've been tarrying about starting a blog. But I'm into it now and I imagine it to accurately reflect my personality: informal, conversational, irreverent and occasionally vulgar. You've been warned.
In FWIW, my goal is to demystify the Indy by explaining how the editorial department chooses stories, writes headlines, etc. I'll discuss how we approach ethical dilemmas and, of course, try to answer the ultimate question: How does someone get in the paper?
In doing this, I hope to elicit (civil) conversations between me and you, the reader—and among readers.
I'll also comment on the news of the day and, as a voracious reader and media consumer, try to turn you on to good reads, films and music.
So first, a few words about this week's cover story:
The article came about when writer/ photographer Anna Blackshaw, who is new to the Indy pages, pitched me a piece about the Sanitation Two. The plight of these men had been studiously noted in the mainstream media, and for the Indy, the piece had to be different. We needed to anchor an intensely researched story in public documents while answering the deeper questions of Who are these men? What motivates them?
Anna admirably achieved that, and as a result we have a story that relies heavily on public documents and shows that Clyde Clark and the Rev. Kerry Bigelow are more than activists and union guys: They're fully fleshed out men with hopes, dreams and disappointments. Just like the rest of us.
We did have an ethical question in the story in that the women complainants are named in the lawsuits but are given anonymity in town documents and at a town hearing. Should we name the women in the story or not? My first instinct was yes, to provide transparency that the Town of Chapel Hill did not; but after Anna and I talked further, we agreed not to because it was difficult from the documents to know what each woman said and did. It seemed that we would achieve no greater clarity for having named them. For the record, Anna tried to reach one of the women several times but received no response. We also vetted this story through a media lawyer.
We did leave their names in the lawsuit documents, which are available to download on the story (see Documents in the sidebar). We redacted all home addresses of the women and the Rev. Bigelow to protect their privacy. Roger Stancil's address is in the documents, but it is for Town Hall.
Another ethical question arose on indyweek.com today about City Council candidate Steve Schewel, who also owns the Indy. Teri Beckman asks how we will cover city council if Schewel is elected. My answer: We will cover city council in the same way we have covered it before, with the same scrutiny of elected officials' decisions and policies.
I can assure you the Indy's independence will not be compromised; the editorial staff demonstrated that independence by choosing not to endorse in the city council race.