Montclair Dispatch student-writer Joe Michalitsianos reflects on the accountability role of local media in keeping the community informed.
A journalist’s job is hard. It is not the deadlines, the writing or the uncomfortable conversations needed to occur in the pursuit of information. No, a journalist’s job is hard because a journalist must hold everyone to the same standard of accountability – regardless of if they are our friends or neighbors.
In a town like Montclair, where the community is tight-knit, social and vibrant, it is a hard deed to look past the seemingly insurmountable goodness. But who else would do it?
If every one of a community’s residents decided that what they were given was good enough, then things would never get better.
While many would say that the core purpose of the media is to convey and package the news for citizens, it goes farther than that. A media organization’s responsibility is acceptability and to relay the news and facts that do not appear on the surface. It should be a constant effort to inform the public of news or happenings that they may not see for themselves. It is an effort to hold our society accountable for the direction it takes and the things it does.
Elected or appointed officials are often the best in our community. Our mayors, directors and administrators, especially in a town like Montclair, are hard-working, honest individuals. That does not mean they should be absolved of all scrutiny. In fact, it is most important for local media to analyze the effectiveness of those in these positions because in the case that they are not doing their job, it has consequences for a wide range of people.
Recently, elected and appointed officials have moved into the spotlight in Montclair, as a large section of the public wonders if there is malfeasance behind the closed doors of our beautiful town. A former varsity athlete for Montclair High School, who wishes to remain anonymous, says “I can see it being pretty easy for people to get away with stuff here. The town loves itself so much that I’m sure there are tons of people ready to gloss over any wrongdoing.”
An unnerving thought, but one that becomes more valid as the Montclair Dispatch involves itself more in the happenings of the town. In a town where the residents pay their dues, either in community involvement or taxes, it is essential that everyone be informed of how those chosen to lead are leading.
Another graduate of Montclair High School, who has a parent working at an administrative level in the town, says it is “obvious” to him that there is “stuff we don’t know about.” “I love Montclair and I want to raise my kids here. That’s the main reason I want to know exactly what happens. I feel as though residents here accept a low level of transparency in exchange for a high quality of living.”
The conversation surrounding transparency in Montclair is moving forward, and the Montclair Dispatch is leading that discussion. Constant efforts to bring elected or appointed officials into the spotlight have left many people questioning why they are getting their information from the newspaper and not the entities themselves.
Publisher’s note: Joe Michalitsianos is a student-writer at The Montclair Dispatch. Interns always force us to see the world through their eyes, their perceptions come preloaded with the effects the greater community has imparted on them thus far. Joe is no exception there but he is exceptional in his desire to seek out the truth, the facts and decide for himself. Joe is currently a rising senior at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. This summer Joe is attending the London School of Economics, LSE. Joe earned the 2017 Eleanor Mary Kennedy Scholarship in Investigative Journalism from the Montclair Dispatch.