Shooting the messenger is the oldest game around

Published 8:00 am Friday, February 25, 2022

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I have been shot more times than a villain in a spaghetti western.

That’s because I have been a messenger most of my life, and shooting the messenger is one of the oldest games in town.


It’s a practice that can be traced back centuries to Tigranes the Great who had a messenger beheaded because he did not like what he was told about the war. Tigranes then sat around while war was being waged all about him, only giving an ear to messengers who flattered him.


I was reminded of all this when I read a letter to the editor of one of our local newspapers. The author expressed her anger and disappointment over the publication of a news story.


“Why would our hometown newspaper feel the need to publish such hurtful details at all, much less on the front page?” she wrote.


“Assuming the article was accurate, does the reporter assume he would have handled this situation any differently?” she added.


The letter writer revisited, once again in print, details of a tragic accident which cost the life of a state trooper and caused so much pain and grief that it could be felt throughout the community.


There is no need for me to provide those details again here, so I won’t.


While it is everyone’s responsibility to be protective of our community and all the people who make it up, it’s also our responsibility to understand what news is, why it exists and the vital role the local newspaper plays in that dynamic.


A newspaper or any other reputable news organization exists to keep us informed about what is happening or has happened where we live. In my days as a reporter, then later editor and finally publisher, I lived by the tenet that newspapers don’t exist to make people happy–they exist to inform them, whether the news is good or bad.


I spent many years as a correspondent for The Associated Press, a news organization whose reporters have sacrificed while gathering news, from Mark Kellogg who died while reporting at the Battle of Little Bighorn, to Terry Anderson who was taken hostage and tortured for five years by Hezbollah militants because of his reporting in Lebanon. Many others made the ultimate sacrifice.


I have always felt that it is a noble profession, even when readers wanted to pluck out my eyeballs and feed them to the crows.


Noble because your newspaper is supposed to be a mirror. You look into that mirror and see yourself. You see your community. That means you are going to see beautiful smiles, happy children, sad parents grieving a loss, a river of tragedy, ranking public officials who speak of transparency but don’t want you to know what’s happening, baseball, festivals, honor rolls and the price of gasoline.


The newspaper is a smorgasbord of our lives. And let’s face it, friends, life can be just as excruciatingly painful as it can be sweet.


So, read it, but don’t shoot the messenger for doing its job.


Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at