On staying neutral


When she won’t give me a copy of her comments, I’m surprised. Most people are happy to; she takes my email address instead.

When I hear the whispered conversation behind me (‘Who is she?) I understand better. I forgot to introduce myself.

She comes up with apologies and she just didn’t know how to trust but I’ve been vouched for, I’m welcome to a copy. Several of her friends around us comment on my last story, that it was well done, and I’m glad but nervous, too.

There’s a red light blinking on my phone when I come in about 6 p.m. on a Saturday night for a late shift, and it always makes me nervous, that light blinking after a story.

He tells me he needs to talk to me and I know his name — I quoted him just the other day — and I start running over words in my head: Where did I go wrong? Did I go wrong? He most have guessed this because it’s not a complaint, he adds at the end, just call him.

I do. It’s a concern he has that I’ll look into, but I can’t make any promises. But I’m relieved on a different level than just the not-a-complaint level.

The man who called and the ladies who commented on that story, they’re on opposite sides of a deep divide that tears at a rural community growing out of a river. It’s got to the point where a person can barely say ‘hello’ to someone on the opposite side without it seeming suspicious, or insulting.

And somehow I have to cover this, to not only maintain neutrality and objectivity in the words I write — which isn’t that hard — but to somehow communicate that to everyone I talk to. And I can’t control perceptions. There have been days that one side or the other says something inflammatory or foolish and I quote them, and hold my breath for a backlash.

But when people from both sides are either happy with my coverage, or angry with my coverage, I know I’m pulling it off. The ladies’ comments and the man’s possible story, both show confidence in my reporting.

I’d been wondering lately, how I’ve been doing.  So it’s nice to start a week knowing that yes, for now, I am doing fine.

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