EDITORIAL: It's a Narrow Tightrope, That's For Sure
Last updated 5/26/2020 at 4:24pm
By now, many have been made aware of BartowNews.net, returning a "newspaper" dedicated to news and events taking place in Bartow; something that has been keenly lacking since 2016, when The Polk County Democrat was uprooted and transplanted to Winter Haven, eventually renamed the Polk News-Sun, and its focus shifted away from Bartow.
In the intervening years, Bartow residents mourned the demise of our hometown paper, and clamored for something to replace it. Inquiries were made to both myself and to my dear friend Jeff Roslow, who had been the managing editor of the Polk County Democrat here in Bartow, and for a time after, at the newspaper once it was relocated to Winter Haven.
From time to time, Jeff and I would discuss and explore the possibility of returning a newspaper to Bartow, but we never could come up with anything substantial, and some of those who approached us who had substantial ties to the community, provided only lip service. No complaint, just a statement of fact, because whenever we approached said individuals, they suddenly were never there.
But I digress. As for BartowNews.net, the reception we are receiving is positive, and it heartens me despite the inside joke in journalism that if you haven't angered at least one person today by something appearing in the newspaper, then you haven't done your job.
Humor aside, when I was approached by Chevon Baccus and Drew Truitt, and asked to come on board, which I agreed to, we discussed the approach we wanted to take with BartowNews.net. Chevon and Drew had also been with The Polk County Democrat and sister publication, the Lake Wales News; incidentally, Chevon started and heads LakeWalesNews.net, which preceded BartowNews.net by approximately one year.
We determined the main focus of BartowNews.net would primarily be presenting the positive side of Bartow. There's enough troubling news that can be found elsewhere in both print and on the web from and by others.
Yet at the same time, BartowNews.net is not and cannot be "Pollyannish" in its approach. There are less than positive occurrences from which Bartow is not immune, and just like every other news service, be it print or online (or combination of both and other formats), there are going to be occasions in which reporting upon these is mandatory. Two that immediately come to mind happened within days of each other.
The most recent of the two happened this past Wednesday, May 20, when a threat was phoned in that a bomb had been placed in the PCSO booking facility here in downtown Bartow. Thankfully, it was false, but regardless, this taking place and the impact it had made it obligatory to report on BartowNews.net.
The second incident, which preceded the bomb threat, however, upon further review, is something undeserving of appearing in BartowNews.net, and I am not going to elaborate upon further, except to say that as a journalist, in my opinion, the reporting of this in another publication was done so in a manner of sensationalism.
What happened was a tragedy, no doubt about it, but the article in question, the headline and its placement in the publication was wrong. It made it appear as if the person in question had committed a crime and then compounded it. As far as I'm concerned as both a journalist and individually, in doing so, that publication has hurt the family of both the victim and the family of the person who caused the situation; innocent people who are all grieving. (And by the way, I am not taking the reporter to task, but the person who made the editorial decision to do so in the manner that it did.)
Please don't misunderstand. This doesn't mean I am condoning what took place. Nor am I attempting to take away the pain the family of the victim suffers. What it does mean is what I learned early in my career as a journalist: "Just because we can doesn't mean we should."