Sometimes administrators may forget this or someone with inexperience may think keeping information from residents is in the public's best interest. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Rural law enforcement can take tremendous advantage of the fact that newspapers are here, in part, to inform the public of crime or matters which affect them. In addition, the public can aid local departments by being another set of eyes and ears.
When a relationship is working as it should, the department and the newspaper can partner up to do a lot of good. I see it first-hand all of the time and the departments which use newspaper to their full advantage, have success due to the relationship.
When law enforcement decides it's better not to release names or keep vital information from the public altogether, it appears like either there is something to hide, or the department is not on top of things. Eventually, the public's trust of the department begins to wane.
Building a relationship with law enforcement is vital and is in the best interest of the department, the newspaper and the public.
———There are many entities which use public funds to function. The governing boards of these tax-supported entities owe it to the public to disclose information, regardless of how painful it may be.
Being involved in several small towns, you see hospital boards, county commissioners, city councils and school boards elected to hopefully, govern these entities to the best of their ability.
Part of that is letting the public know where and how their tax dollars are being spent. A transparent government is one which has the public's best interest at heart.
Most of the entities we deal with are very forthcoming with information. And it is the job of the newspaper to get the reader that information in a timely matter.
As with law enforcement, the better the relationship between a newspaper and a taxing entity, the better it is for all concerned.
———It's been my understanding that a transparent government works the best. The public understands when things are not going well, they just don't like to be shocked.
Small-town residents want the biggest bang for their buck. They want their elected officials to communicate what is going on and how and where their money is spent.
When elected officials abide by these simple principals, it makes all of the difference in the world.
Copyright Christopher Blackburn 2008