Kudos News Tribune

Why will newspapers never fade away? Because of great reporting.

The most recent Sunday blowout was a great piece of open government watch-dogging that proved, again, that government agencies are about covering up first – and then if they are so inclined, possibly following the law second when it comes to transparency and records disclosure. The News Tribune

The TNT was actually very kind in not ascribing bad motives to the cover-up-prone agencies they exposed.

While I suppose their perspective on the issue is valid, 25 years in journalism has jaded me a little more.

Newsflash: it’s not a training or resources issue, I see it as a cultural problem where the first instinct is to restrict and control. It is the natural inclination of all governments, and is therefore transmitted like a virus to the apparatchiks who work in in the cradle-to-grave safety provided by their respective governmental bureaucracies.

I just have never understood why government workers think it is their job to do reputation management for their agency and the people who are involved with it.

If asked to point to actual cases of the abuse of public information by reputable journalists working for reputable publications – they would be hard pressed to name one. But that doesn’t seem to stop them from acting on their predisposition for cover up – or instantly concocting an imaginative scenario in their own minds that somehow justifies their breaking of, or willful ignorance of, the open records laws.

Even IF some government worker could pull an actual example of “information abuse” out of his or her hat, or argue that an irresponsible blogger swooping down upon the town posed some sort of a threat by gaining access to information about our government and how it operates – we can’t legislate our freedoms by exception.

What that means is that despite the bureaucracy’s fears of exposure or the unwarranted exposure of its wards (be they voluntary, or not-in the case of the courts), the overwhelming benefit of open records, transparency and accountability far outweighs the machine’s fondness for secrecy even if some far-fetched examples have become part of agency lore.

Legends that start with, “Remember that time” or anecdotal tales of somebody allegedly “getting burned” by the media don’t cut it. The world is filled with people who where “misquoted” or “got burned” by the media. They just seem to conveniently forget that the messenger wasn’t the cause of their discomfort.

Then there was page two.

Do I think the, “We’re the big dog” self-congratulatory column on the following page was a bit much? Yep.

But along with my jaded view of the bureaucracy, I’ve also learned that if you don’t blow your horn, nobody else is going to do it for you… especially when you beat the pants off your multi-media competition and afflict the comfortable like the News Tribune does so well.