By Melinda Munson
When I first came to Skagway, I had the naive idea that I would be the co-owner of the paper during professional hours and just myself the rest of the day. I quickly realized I couldn’t separate my identities in this small town life – whether it was buying the police chief’s house after he was asked to resign, or maintaining a friendship with someone when they win an assembly seat. The following is what I want readers to know about interacting with me, and how journalism works in a town of 800.
1. I will never quote from a private Facebook page. However, public groups such as Bulletin Board are fair game.
2. Everything you say in a social setting is off record.
3. When you’re on the record, you’ll know. I start all my conversations for work with, “Hi, this is Melinda with The Skagway News. (I say this even to my husband and close friends to establish boundaries.)
4. Anything stated in a public meeting is quotable. I do not need to ask for permission. The same goes for any letter submitted to the assembly.
5. During an interview, you can ask to restate or clarify a quote. I’m not looking for “gotcha” material.
6. If there is an error in an article, please notify us immediately. I build future stories on what has already been written. I hate to make mistakes – and even more – I hate to make the same mistake twice.
7. I don’t pick the pictures that appear in the paper. I submit a variety of shots and co-editor Gretchen makes most photo choices. I think this is a good system as it takes my personal bias as a full-time resident out of the equation.
8. When running errands, I schedule extra time to accommodate community member questions or conversations. (My husband should pick up our takeout because by the time I get home, the food is cold.)
9. The police blotter is provided by the police department – I edit it for grammar, not content. I cannot withhold names. If my mother got a DUI, I would publish the incident.
10. There is a difference between a public person and a private citizen. A public person is someone like the mayor or an assembly member, who is open to scrutiny. A private citizen maintains more privacy and is not open to criticism.
11. We cannot possibly cover all the stories happening in Skagway. We appreciate pictures from the community and love to publish fellow Skagwegians’ work.
12. My mom and sister tell me the profile picture for my column is unflattering. I keep it so when you meet me, you’re pleasantly surprised.
13. I generally never have more than one alcoholic beverage. People tell me a plethora of things off record and I don’t want to slip up.
14. I’m a registered Non-partisan. I won’t tell you how I voted or how I feel about local issues. I don’t take part in protests or sign petitions. I rarely testify at citizens present, because once I do, I cannot write an article about that topic.
15. I know I’ve done a good job on an article if both sides are slightly dissatisfied.
16. We haven’t been paid this year. The money from our generous advertisers covers printing, software, office space and newsies. We’re hoping next year we’ll be blessed with a normal season.
17. Sometimes when I go to an event, I’m there to cover a story. Other times, I’m present for my spouse and children and want to be available to them.
18. I work non-traditional hours to accommodate my kids’ illnesses, appointments and other shenanigans. Don’t be surprised if you get a call from me after my children are in bed.
19. Libel is written and slander is spoken. I don’t plan to do either.
20. I love Skagway more than I could have imagined. Thank you for being unique, dedicated, kind – and a little off balance.