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We’re all on the same team

POSTED January 19, 2010 11:57 p.m.
Cheerleaders and coaches have very different roles on a sports team.
Cheerleaders are meant to rally community spirit and motivate and inspire the players on the field. They do this by accentuating the positive.
I have never heard a negative cheer. Not once in all my time as student, parent or as a sports reporter have I heard “Our team lacks talent and skill, oh yeah!” Even when the scoreboard is shouting the imminent defeat of the home team, good cheerleaders will carry on with a shout of “Defense, defense!”
Coaches, on the other hand, tell it like it is. When their team is hitting all their marks, using the talent they have in an intelligent manner and displaying the epitome of teamwork, a good coach will let them know. But it is also the coach’s job to be honest with his or her players and let them know when they have screwed up. No team ever improved without first facing the reality of their strengths and weaknesses.
Community newspapers are more like coaches than cheerleaders. It is our job to tell it like it is, not report only the positive for positive’s sake. Many times over the past three years, I have had community members ask me why we report so much negative news. Whenever someone asks me this question, I first wonder if they are regular Journal readers, because the majority — yes, 50 percent or more — of our articles are positive or neutral in nature. Then, I answer that it is our job, as a newspaper, to be a watchdog for the community.
I can’t tell you how many times a Journal reporter has been the sole member of the community at an Arts Commission, Parks and Recreation or Fair Board meeting, but it happens frequently. On Tuesday night, only reporters were in attendance at the Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting. Not one member of the community braved the rain and hail to listen to deliberations on changing the way trustees are elected. This is an important change that affects every parent, educator, school employee and student in the district. If the media was not there to let you know what happened, who would?
There is no reasonable way every community member, or even a majority of community members, could attend every public board meeting. That is why newspapers — and other media sources, I guess — are so important to democracy. We are your eyes and ears in all branches of government.
But, just because we shine a light on what is wrong in an area of town or public board, doesn’t mean we hope it will stay that way. Community newspapers, just like coaches, may be upset that their team is fouling every two minutes but they never start rooting for the other team.
The Journal — and me, personally — are members of this community. When the community prospers, we prosper. When our elected and appointed public officials do their job legally and with the best interests of the public in mind, we all benefit. And there’s more room in the paper for cute and cuddly puppy photos!
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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