Last week we responded to several questions coming in to the Record Pilot editorial staff on what kinds of letters we accept and publish. We have also had many questions about our policy when it comes to reporting what people say at public meetings, be they elected officials or citizens. The answer is similar.

Journalistic standards dictate that newspapers report on public meetings accurately and completely without slanting the report or purposely leaving out details in order to shape the reader's opinion of what was discussed.

Vigilant citizens should use public meetings as one tool to participate in their government's actions. Having the discourse they create published in the paper is an extension of this tool and an aid to democracy. However, the newspaper does not necessarily cover everything each person says if, like letters to the editor, their statements offer opinions as fact or cross the line into slander, libel or hearsay. Even if a public criticism on an official or their policy is factual, the highest standards would compel a reporter to follow up after the meeting and allow the official to respond to whatever public attack is being published.

The goal is to always create a fair, truthful, complete picture.


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