Can Journalists Be Too Transparent?


Earlier this week I posted a picture of my new house here on this blog.

I have been asked if I am worried about people knowing where I live.

Of course, my answer is that I live and working in Moundridge, Kan., so what does it matter if people know where I lay my head to rest.

The town is small enough that a person can drive from one end to the other in less than two minutes. In fact, the local phone book contains directions to the homes of those citizens listed. No joke.

I can easily be found, and I am glad.

As I approach the one-month anniversary of being The Ledger’s editor-in-chief, I am starting to more fully understand the concept behind small-town, weekly newspaper journalism and the importance of transparency in journalism.

In no other such market does a journalist get to know his or her readers better, and I don’t get to know them because I write inflammatory articles that elicit harsh responses.

No.

I live with them. I eat with them. I check my mail with them.

On occasion, I even drink with them at the local pub.

I want them to know where I live. I want them to know all about me because you better believe I want to know everything about them.

I want my newspaper to serve them in ways they never thought possible.

To do that most effectively, I have to be as transparent as possible.

I have to be able to allow my readers to peer into my life and see that I am just one of them that has been charged with the task of recording the news and happenings of the community.

Granted, transparency can turn into a negative, as is evident in the industry, as professional journalists have lost their jobs due to blogs and photos that have been posted on the Internet, according to Romenesko reports.

These journalists were being open about their feelings and perspectives on the places and profession in which they worked.

Their employers took offense to what was put online, and they were removed, in some cases.

I feel bad for the journalists because I love writing and about work and journalism as well, but when I do so I realize I need to be careful with what I say.

That is the fine line of being transparent.

I firmly believe journalists, regardless of the size of their publication, should be open and easily accessible by the reading public.

In a time when the industry is in flux and hyper-local journalism is quickly becoming the way for local newspapers to survive, journalists need to heed a lesson and allow people in.

How can one expect efficient coverage of a community if the journalist treats the people like a spectacle present only for his or her viewing pleasure?

It’s a two-way street.

So do I think journalists can be too transparent?

Maybe at times, but any problems arising from admitting being human can be curtailed by exercising common sense when posting opinions and photos onto the Internet, even if it is on a social-networking Web site.

Personally, all my contact information can be found my using Google to search for my name.

I operate several Web sites, and almost all of them have my cell phone and address on them.

I operate my own businesses, and my cell phone is my work phone. Of course I’m going to have it online then.

In fact, I have links to all my Web sites at VogtsWorld.com.

I’m not worried because I want to have a relationship with people who read my work, whether online or at The Ledger.

Granted, I don’t plan on posting photos of myself getting incredibly drunk and stupid, and I try very hard to refrain from using profane language in my writings.

That is how I walk the line and not be so over exposed to cause my readers to lose respect for me as a journalist while still seeing I am a human.

I must confess, though, that this entire post was sparked when I heard a fellow journalist was complaining about someone knowing something he/she had not told the person yet.

See, he/she had written about it in column that had been turned in for the editing process.

If he/she didn’t want the information out already, he/she shouldn’t have written about it.

It’s that simple.

But since so much can be found out nowadays anyway by searching the Internet, why not be in control of the information and give full disclosure?

Instead of allowing rumor mills or nosey journalists reveal something, just do it yourself.

Just don’t complain when someone reads your blog and then tells others. If you really don’t want the information out there, don’t publish it.

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