It has come to our attention in recent weeks that it may be time for a friendly refresher on how to read and interpret different parts of a newspaper.
We recall this topic being covered in high school during current events discussions. With the decline of daily newspapers and the turn toward digital news, that may no longer be the case, which is sad, because in our current climate of bashing anything we don’t agree with as “fake news,” it’s more important than ever to be able to determine fact from fiction and news from opinion.
The Sand Paper includes articles on local events and meetings, opinion pieces, comics, puzzles and announcements. Most people have no trouble identifying the funnies and announcements. It’s the opinion and articles that can trip up some. The only opinion piece that WE write each week is the Editorial on this page. We accept Letters to the Editor as well as Guest Opinions. Those are the opinions of those who write them. We try to label these as “Opinion” just to be crystal clear.
Our articles do not reflect the opinions of the writer or of the ownership of the Sand Paper. They are meant to be factual accounts of the who, what, why, etc. of the topic being covered, including meetings.
We cover a lot of meetings. Town Council, Local Planning Agency, Fire Board and Library Board, even an occasional Lee County Board of Commissioners meeting if they’re discussing something beach-related.
When we cover a meeting, we report what is said and done at the meeting. We try to include some background from previous meetings if that helps to understand the board’s discussion or actions. We do not dive into the rabbit hole of factchecking everything said at a meeting. If a board member makes a statement, we report what they said, making clear who said what. If they said they saw a helicopter land on the beach, we don’t factcheck that statement, we report what they said. Period. We believe that our readers deserve to know what takes place at public meetings.
We use quotation marks to indicate what was said by participants in those meetings. Elected officials, applicants and staff are all quoted regularly. Our job is to get the quote right. If we don’t and are informed of an error, we will check the quote and publish a correction if warranted.
However, if someone is not happy with what was said in a meeting and we reported what was said accurately, the obvious solution is to contact the person who said it. Don’t shoot the messenger. We simply report what was said. We offer space in our Letters section to anyone who wishes to dispute something said in any board meeting. And all of those board meetings allow Public Comment. Feel free to speak to them directly.
Anyone who feels they were misquoted or that we misreported something from a meeting is asked to notify us. Anyone who is unhappy that someone said something they think is wrong at a meeting, should take it up with the person who said it. We didn’t say it, we just reported it.