Editor's Views: Broad-brush critics miss the good that Gazette does

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Scott Angus
Saturday, December 14, 2013

People love to take shots at The Gazette.

To some degree, that's OK. I know criticizing the local paper is good sport. I've worked at papers in several cities, and it's always the case. Newspapers are never perfect, and people enjoy pointing out their shortcomings.

We're big boys and girls. We can take it. If we goof something up, miss a story or consistently fall short of expectations, people have a right to express their dissatisfaction.

One level of criticism, however, frustrates me to no end. To some people, The Gazette and its owner, Bliss Communications, are the evil empire. In their minds, we're the city's big media company, and we're only in it for ourselves.

Many of our staunchest critics disagree with our editorial positions when we write about politics and politicians. They obviously are entitled to their opinions, and I respect their decisions to do what they must to respond. I'd prefer letters to the editor, but some believe that dropping the paper is their best option. I think that's shortsighted, given that such opinions represent just a fraction of our editorials and a much smaller fraction of our content.

The people who truly frustrate me, though, are those who cast us as the enemy in a broad sense because they disagree with occasional editorials. They don't trust us; they don't believe us, and they apparently don't recognize the good we do for the community.

I'm not writing this because I want accolades for the paper or me. I'm beyond that. I'm writing because I hope some of our more persistent critics and others who occasionally question our motives will step back and see that many of our goals are much the same as theirs. We have more in common than they realize.

For example, we want Janesville and Rock County to prosper, and we want to be sure that those in our community who are struggling get the attention and support they need. We walk the walk nearly every day with stories and editorials about the poor and troubled among us and the many nonprofits that need support.

Around the holidays in particular, we continually shine a light on the needs of residents and the organizations that serve them. In just a few days that I reviewed, we featured the work of dozens of ECHO volunteers to provide 2,500 Thanksgiving meals to disadvantaged residents, a holiday wish list for nonprofits compiled by our staff, a coffee shop in Delavan that provides work and training for needy women and a program at KANDU that advocates for Rock County residents who can't make decisions for themselves. 

Then there is The Gazette's own holiday charity, the Good Samaritan Fund, which raises money and donates it to the Salvation Army and ECHO to provide food baskets to the needy during the holidays. I could go on. In a year's time, we publish hundreds of stories intended to help the less fortunate.

Those who demonize The Gazette seem to forget that we are part of this community, just as they are. We aren't just a newspaper trying to make a buck. As much as anything, we are the people who work here, and our employees have a variety of interests and beliefs. Many share the same goals and do as much for this community as those who regularly cast this company in a negative light.

I don't get it. Like friends who disagree about politics over a lively dinner, can't we recognize and respect our differences but appreciate that we all share a desire to make this a better place?

Scott W. Angus is editor of The Gazette and vice president of news for Bliss Communications. His email is sangus@gazettextra.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @sangus_.

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