Democracy is not easy for couch potatoes or cowards. To work, it demands much of us, including our attention, our willingness to be publicly right or wrong, and a recognition by the general public that at some point we’re each likely to end up on either side of an argument that makes us uncomfortable.
Two instances in the last week reminded me just how much we hate such discomfort.
First, Electric City Council members were thinking they should vote on a public matter (electing a new member) with a secret ballot. That’s against the law for the simple reason that council members are standing in for the public, which has a right to know what they’re doing on its behalf.
At the time, though, it was easier to appreciate the argument that in a small town you don’t want your neighbor to know you voted against him.
The next night in Coulee Dam, a woman informed me she didn’t want her name used in a a news story, feeling she had a right to privacy, even though she had spoken at a public meeting about the public’s business.
I informed her she had no such right. There can be no expectation of privacy.
First, speaking in public about public business lies at the very heart of civil discourse and democracy itself. A citizen should be proud to do this duty, not wish to hide it. Second, journalists choose quotes from the public that illustrate a particular point. We try to name those speaking because as a principle, facts reported in news stories need to be verifiable by anyone. Allowing anonymity for no good reason undermines that principle.
Democracy is messy and uncomfortable. Those who participate in it are its courageous shining soul. It’s always best to let it shine.
— Scott Hunter
editor and publisher