Why do we include controversial quotes from politicians?
This question comes from a comment on the Munising Beacon Facebook page regarding a quote from U.S. Congressman Jack Bergman about who was to blame for issues with the national debt ceiling. The commenter also specifically called me out for including it.
The stories about debt ceilings are prevalent and available from numerous other news sources. We spend enough time covering local stories to bother competing with other groups about issues like these.
However, Jack Bergman is our local congressman. Only one person represents the Upper Peninsula in that house of Congress and it’s him. It is of the utmost importance that we hear his perspective and why he votes the way he does. Quotes come from sources who have first-hand experience about the story at hand. These people provide background, comparisons and what kind of side effects there may be that nobody else would be able to provide. Anytime one of our elected officials vote a certain way and talk about an issue in a formal and professional situation, it is considered newsworthy for us back home in Alger County.
In situations with an elected official, it does not matter to objective journalists if you like or dislike what they say. It matters if you, the reader, understand why those officials are voting the way they do. Understanding how our elected officials represent us is crucial to the United States of America because it proves that we are sending an informed populace to the polls each election. If the people believe we are not being properly represented, a challenger will win. If we the people think the officials are doing a good job, we vote for them to stay.
Now to be fair to our commenter, Bergman fails the objectivity “eye test” when providing press releases. He is the second worst at overpoliticizing issues and the worst of any local or regional Republican. The worst that I have to deal with when sifting through releases is Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who basically just sends propaganda with very little to no information relevant to the Upper Peninsula. On the flip side, Jenn Hill (D-Marquette, MI House 109) has stood out on talking about the positives of her view points with very little commentary about anything regarding partisan politics. Another good one on the Republican side has been Greg Markkanen (R-Hancock, MI House 110), who takes the same role when providing his own press releases, but shifts a little more into partisan rank and file when combining with other conservative leaders.
That being said, journalists need to provide the local audience with facts. Properly attributed quotes by elected officials, especially when coming from press releases, are facts, even though what they say could be questioned. That is why we include controversial quotes from politicians.
In the hopes of better understanding how our local newspaper works, the staff editorial on the first week of every month will go over one specific topic of relevant local journalism that causes questions or concerns. To ask a question, email email@example.com with the subject line “Why do we”.