Living in a small town has a whole bunch of pluses and minuses.
On the plus side, we have been relatively unscathed by the global pandemic. Yes, our geography obviously helps, but the fact is we have gotten lucky. Speaking of geography, we have magnificent land and nature access here, and a relaxed way of life that you can’t find in the big cities. We help each other, and we all know each other. If we don’t, you probably know someone who knows that other someone or else they turn out to be your third cousin on your late great-grandmother’s side. We always enjoy connections.
On the minus side, however, we usually don’t have a lot of access to goods that you can get in the big cities. Amazon sales are through the roof all across Canada, and I expect most of us have ordered from away pretty recently. Shopping local is a luxury when it comes to some merchandise.
Some things can apply to both categories. Those connections I mentioned earlier can also be a bit maddening.
At the Wreckhouse Weekly we rely on you, our dear and constant readers, to help us out. Story ideas are frequently submitted to us and a great number of them are followed up or investigated by us, to provide as much factual information and fascinating profiles as possible. That you continue to reach out is a testament to our region and the people who live here. We matter.
But some other story ideas have to be thrown away, sometimes after we’ve invested considerable time into it. It’s not because we don’t want to pursue the story –far from it actually. But if someone indicates that their story directly impacts them, or a business, the next six words out of their mouth is usually quite often, “But don’t use my name though.”
Confidentiality is vital to journalism. It speaks to the ability of a journalist to be able to protect an anonymous source and to preserve the integrity of a whistleblower. There are laws in place to protect sensitive news sources for a reason, a fact so established that it appears regularly in TV or movies.
However, if safety of an individual is not of paramount concern, then the inability to use someone’s name only serves to undermine the credibility of both the story and the journalist. Trying to write under those circumstances can be a very tough line to walk, and I confess to feeling frustrated by it.
Say that I want to do a story about something that normally wouldn’t generate controversy – let’s pick chairs. Perhaps someone can’t buy fabric for that chair locally and he’s mad, so he wants us to write a story about there being no chair fabric in the entire region.
“An unnamed source can’t get the material needed for his furniture business,” doesn’t carry the same weight as saying “Jim Smith is unable to get the material needed.”
The use of a person’s name is never intended to single someone out or cause them embarrassment. It simply lends credence to the story, and makes the issue much more relevant and personal for readers.
Meanwhile, I’ve gotten tagged by multiple people on Jim Smith’s Facebook post. Somewhere on a public forum, Jim is raging that there’s no fabric to be had unless he orders it in, he hates online shopping and he doesn’t want to drive to Corner Brook to buy material all the time.
By then usually a couple hundred people have seen it and plenty have commented, leading me to believe that this is an issue that people are interested in or grappling with and thus warrants further investigation. But when I call Jim to ask questions all I hear is, “Don’t use my name.”
It honestly makes no sense and it frustrates me so much.
Before reaching out, please decide whether asking for help to address an issue matters more than not stirring the pot. We don’t want to discourage you from reaching out, but the bottom online is that if we can’t use your name, then we can’t use your story either.
So let’s stir the pot.