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Stop blurring the lines between media & politics

Welcome to 2014. I hope it is full of blessings for you personally and our community as a whole.
The stage is set for this year to be a sturdy foundation for our future as business industries continue to develop.
However, before we entrench ourselves in a new round of 365 days, I want to step back to the recent year to which we waved “bye.”
During 2013, there were news items that were primarily local, while others stretched statewide, nationwide, and even a few across international waters that intrigued, dumbfounded and, in some cases, irked the fire out of me.
I have loads I could pontificate upon, but I will subject you to only one item that triggers my fingers to rapidly nail keyboard letter after keyboard letter. This one hits home with me.
I want to announce that I will not seek an elected office in 2014 or any other year while I am a member of the working press.
Not that I seriously believe I would be a threat to the political future of Sylvania Mayor Margaret Evans or Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, but over the past few years certain individuals with close ties to the newspaper industry have tossed the proverbial hats into the ring and in at least one case with some rather favorable returns.
Please allow me to elaborate. After my explanation, I believe you too will surmise the two entities should and must remain separate.
If you are the publisher of a newspaper and you run for governor, who in their right mind would ever believe that publication could truly be fair to all the candidates? Now maybe the newspaper is on the up and up and is really objective in its allotment of equal time and space to others vying for the office. Yes, honestly, that actually could happen. However, the world we live in is a climate of human perception. If you don’t agree with me, hang out on Facebook where one side of a person’s life is highlighted while the other side not so much.
If you are an employee of a newspaper and you run for your city’s mayor, the public automatically will bank on that publication will support you. So what if your newspaper is the only paper in town? Where does that leave the other candidates? Can you realistically think the competitors would believe they will get a fair shake from the paper?
Of course not.
Let’s review this under more scrutiny: Employees with certain roles with a newspaper can get themselves quite a bit of exposure just by doing their job. If the paper employee also buys paid advertisements in the paper, an outsider certainly could think the ad placement given to that candidate is a better spot because the staff works with him or her. Then there’s the chance another candidate buys an ad and the colors in that ad do not print up to par. If that were to occur, how easy would it be for someone to figure it was done intentionally so the employee of the newspaper could garner more votes?
Newspaper people are professionals. They have a difficult job of restructuring their lives to cover the lives of others. I can tell you firsthand it can be tedious.
While exercising that thought process, intensify it 10-fold with an impending election where everything and I mean everything you do as a journalist is under a microscope to see if you back a candidate over another.
Speaking for us at the Sylvania Telephone, we do the best job we can to bring pertinent information to you the reader so you can go your polling place with knowledge.
And, yes, the Telephone has had a person affiliated with the newspaper seek public office. Although that person was not a full-time employee of the Telephone, this publication sought to remove any perceived bias by having that individual go on hiatus during the campaign.
The lines between those covered by the news and those covering the news have been blurred. Want further evidence? Watch national television news broadcasts. Some call it objective versus non-objective, but it is easier to refer to it as those who support the Democratic Party versus those who support the Republican Party.
Through all of this, if you read that I am passionate about this, then you are very perspective. This is who I am. This is my life. My integrity means everything to me.
For years, I have been told I see things differently than others. To that, I respond, “No, I take in all the information first and then form a judgment.” That’s why this column is in your hands now. I wanted to see how all the cards played out.
I can only hope that same level of importance in the profession of journalism applies to my fellow newspaper men and women.
But I guess you the reader will have to draw your own conclusions about that.

Enoch Autry is the publisher-editor of the Sylvania Telephone.