Truth is best way to handle privacy vs. public issues

ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced: story. It is an editorial by the editor.

My biggest beef with corporations and their CEOs for a long time in my business has been that they rarely tell the truth. They lie just about as often as politicians and marketers and advertisers.

For example, when they discharge well-known employees, they tell us the dearly-departed left to spend more time with their family. They tell us our call is important to us while we’re put on hold. They too often must control the news and what and how it’s reported.

Yet there are times people like me in the pesky press have to weigh the public’s right to know against sincere wishes for privacy.

A couple of instances have surfaced this month in Wayland and Martin.

Mike Hudson, the most successful varsity basketball coach in Wayland’s history, has been absent from the last six Wildcat ballgames in a row. Obviously, this arouses public curiosity as to what’s going on.

I hear tell that the coach’s wife is facing serious health issues and he is focused right now on being a good husband. The situation, as far as I can determine, has exacted a toll on the one of the two most famous athletic families, along with the Ritz-Merchant clan, in this community.

While Mike’s wife is facing these challenges, they have children who are coaching (Wes) and playing (Presley, Avery and Parrish), besides going to school and attempting to lead worthwhile lives, not to mention the most vulnerable of the group, their youngest.

I certainly have tried to avoid prying into their family affair, but because of their huge successes in the athletic arena, they are very public figures, and what happens to them matters to many people. And these people deserve a lot more information than what would be provided by corporations, their CEOs and marketers and advertisers.

There comes a time we all have to face the truth, even when it hurts a lot.

Another instance was the tragic death of Martin High School senior Mahri Maya. Though Townbroadcast published the story almost immediately and later presented details of a memorial visitation, the cause of death was not disclosed.

I must confess to being very concerned that she had taken her own life. I did not publish what fears I had because there was no evidence. We all must understand that despite the goal to protect privacy, it is human nature to have serious questions about why such a young and popular 17-year-old girl died.

The more extended media now is bringing up the possibility she died of the flu because she had symptoms and left school earlier in that fateful week. No one mentioned this in her obituary, nor in the early reportage of the tragic development. And with the widespread reporting about the flu this year, reckless reporting could cause unnecessary fear.

The point here is that not disclosing the truth, even in the effort to honor privacy, can have have unintended consequences.

It is my fervent hope that public officials, when dealing with private matters involving public people or public occurrences, tell the truth as quickly and humanely as possible. It’s a great way to stop “fake news” dead in its ugly tracks.

1 Comment

  • I wonder if we couldn’t start a movement to cease the use of the term “fake news.” Since there is no such thing, could we please call it what it is? Fake news is lies. Fake news is gossip. Fake news is not news. The terms are mutually exclusive. Respectfully.

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