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Column: Revenge: A dish best served without ink, paper

June 21, 2013

Lois Tomaszewski, managing editor

It seems society takes things way too seriously these days.
As is often the case in the newsroom, there is often discussion about what is happening to society, how it was different way back when and what needs to happen to fix attitudes, actions and behaviors. Sometimes the discussion is a little off-the-wall,a little sarcastic and sometimes irreverent.
Given the deadline pressures, balancing of multiple stories and covering sometimes highly-charged meetings, this is a way to release stress.
But, as with any group, there are those moments of seriousness that lead to in depth reflection and debate.
Creative, intelligent and curious are some of the words I could use to describe those I work with at the Pilot and in the weekly newspapers that are part of our group. The other word is opinionated.
I learned a long time ago that there will always be someone whose perspective is different than mine. That’s OK and even welcomed. We are all not cut from the same clothes. My life-lessons and challenges are different from yours; but that doesn’t mean mine are more significant or more important.
Today, when someone inflicts a perceived wrong on us, a family member or friend, some people want retaliation.
For example, I sometimes get calls from anonymous sources that share with me their personal tales of “somebody done somebody wrong.” Did you know that this public figure is having an affair with another public figure? Or this individual did something unethical but not illegal. And there’s the allegations of former employees against employers.
It is not that any of these situations do not have merit. It’s not that there is not a valid story in these “tips.” The problem is when my staff checks out the rumor, innuendo or accusation and finds out that it is not as wide-ranging, significant or factual as presented. That’s what we are here for, to check out these allegations. Sometimes we find out that there is more to the story.
But, I do have a problem with people wanting to use the newspaper to exact revenge. There is a permanency to accusations made in print. Once something is suggested about an individual’s character, honesty or values that is placed in print, it cannot be taken back. We can run a correction if something is erroneous. We can run a story about an acquittal. But we cannot erase the suggestion from people’s memories.
It used to be that people had a longer fuse. Little things like a child not getting an award or being penalized by a teacher for not doing their school work may have made parents a little angry, but it was chalked up as a lesson about life. That’s not usually the case anymore. Now, some people want to destroy a person’s reputation over something that will probably be forgotten in a few days, weeks, months or even years — and they often want the newspaper to party to this act.
While everyone strives to be unbiased and treat everyone the same, life is not at all fair. Laws and regulations can help even the playing field, but it cannot fix the way people interact on a personal level or what hardships we each have to endure.
Achieving in spite of these obstacles is what creates the leaders of tomorrow.
Sometimes there are concerns that need to be aired publicly, and in that case, The Pilot News Group can be an important ally. But sometimes, all that is needed is a little venting, a tiny bit of ranting and good old-fashioned resolve.
The best revenge on those that do us wrong is a life well lived.
Tomaszewski is the managing editor for the Pilot News Group, which includes The Bremen Enquirer. She can be reached at ltomaszewski@thepilotnews.com or 574-936-3101.

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