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Mea Culpa

Publisher's Log
Posted 3/22/19

The River Reporter prides itself on its good journalism.  We try. Oft time, we do okay.  Best paper around, I often hear. And sometimes we fall short. Our coverage of the moving of the …

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Mea Culpa

Posted

The River Reporter prides itself on its good journalism.  We try.

Oft time, we do okay.  Best paper around, I often hear.

And sometimes we fall short. Our coverage of the moving of the Barryville Farmer’s Market is a good example. In announcing the move, we simply reprinted the market manager’s social media announcement.

As you can imagine, a single post on social media, no matter the reliability or its authenticity, does not hold the whole of the situation.

I was reminded of this when the owners of the River Market called to register a complaint that they were not contacted before we printed the story. Additionally, there were details in our story that were not accurate. They wanted to know, given our good journalistic record, how it was that we had published such a flawed accounting.

I agreed that it wasn’t good journalism. Parties on each side of any issue need the opportunity to give their side of the story. Our stories need to provide depth and nuance. Our stories need to probe behind the story, to see what other influences are involved. Our stories need to consider the impact on the community.

Our stories need to give people information so that they could set their opinions and interpretations in context. (Haven’t I been talking about that here for weeks on end?)

And sometimes we fall down.

In this particular farmer’s market story, we did not tell readers that there had been verbal complaints, an official complaint, discussions with the code enforcement officer and a near accident where a child was almost hit by a car that indicated that the market, the amazing vibrant market, had outgrown its current space.

We kind of told people that, at the end of the season, that reality was put into writing. The six-month notification clause was set in motion.The no-fee agreement to use the space would not be renewed as it had been for five years.  Another suitable space needed to be found.

And certainly, we told readers that a suitable space was not able to be found in the Town of Highland. The market will reopen at the Narrowsburg Union in May. (Some might recall this is not the first time the market has needed to move, being first established in the turnaround by the interstate bridge. Then, the fire department requested the move, so that there would be access to water from the river.)

Undoubtedly, there are other behind-the-scenes influences that I know nothing about. What I do know is that in this story, everyone is disappointed and no one wants, or needs, to be blamed for the outcome.

With numerous entities in the know, the recent announcement of the move seemed to come out of nowhere.

I wonder if we had all known, last summer, that there were complaints, discussions about a different space, and near-miss accidents, whether we might have collectively found a way to keep the market in Barryville or moved it further south into Lumberland. (In terms of the valley demographics and the existing Callicoon market on Sundays, Barryville is a better geographic location.)

I ponder the proverbial question of what mechanism and what resources the community has to explore important community issues with the many players and stakeholders involved. Who is responsible for providing for the commons?

Which, of course, leads me back to the newspaper and our community responsibility.

The River Reporter prides itself on its good journalism. We try. We take responsibility when we fall short. (We amended our online story and printed a correction in this week's paper.)

When my son was growing up I used to tell him that the measure is not that we get into trouble. The measure was how we get out of trouble.

We look forward to covering this continuing community story and others. We welcome your calls, news tips and feedback always.  Please let us know what's going on early.

And as to this farmer’s market story, be gentle with each other. It’s a loss all around.

Many thanks to all who made the Barryville Farmers Market a reality. I will miss it (but not the mud!). 

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the matter. Feel free to comment below.

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