The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

January 29, 2012

EDITORIAL: Telling the truth, even when it’s sick

Herald-Banner Staff

GREENVILLE — Last week we printed a story that has gotten more attention than anything we’ve published in the Herald-Banner for years.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it. The story was about a man who was accused of having sex with a horse, then trying to steal an officer’s weapon after he got caught.

We don’t like having to print stories like this in the paper because it’s so heartbreaking, and in this case stomach-turning, to know what’s happening around us.  We wish stories like this never occurred.

When they do, though, we’re going to print them because it’s our job to tell people what’s happening in Hunt County even —and perhaps most importantly — when it’s unpleasant.

Since that story came out, we’ve been criticized for printing it for a variety of reasons.

Some people say it’s inappropriate for children to hear about such things, and we can sympathize with this argument. Many of us at the paper have young children, and there are things happening in the community that we would rather they not know about until they are older. Still, it’s our obligation to print what’s happening locally, even though that can sometimes shatter innocence.

Some people have accused us of sensationalizing the story. If we had put it at the top of our front page, with a giant headline that screamed from newsstands, they might have a point. But we didn’t do that.

We knew this story would be the No. 1 topic of conversation in Greenville the next day, but we intentionally printed it with a small, straightforward headline. We even put it below the fold, where it couldn’t be seen in news racks to drive sales of the paper.

Now, five days after the story was printed, we’re still getting Facebook comments and hearing people’s reaction in the community. If anything, we think the Herald-Banner underplayed this story based on the strong opinions and countless conversations it’s spawned since it was published.

When you work for a newspaper, you learn to have thick skin. We expect to be roasted by readers from time to time because our work is very public and can be controversial. Believe it or not, we like getting critical feedback from our readers because it helps us learn to do a better job in the future and shows that readers care deeply about what we do.

But there’s one criticism we’ve heard lately that bothers us. It’s the idea that the Herald-Banner should have not printed this particular story because it makes Hunt County look bad.

We want to make one thing clear: This newspaper is not a public relations tool. We’re not out to paint the Greenville area in a positive light, nor is our goal to use our news pages to attract new industries.

We just want to tell the truth. We’re going to continue to tell the good truths, just as we did this week with stories about the Worthy Citizen, businesses expanding and awards being given, along with the bad truths about criminals and perverts.

Our job is to reflect Hunt County as it really is, not how we wish it to be. If people are offended by what’s happening here, they should turn their attention to the facts themselves rather than the messenger.