Jared Felkins: Questions deserve answers, and that’s what we do best

It’s no secret I love talking about my job. I’ll tell anyone who asks about it, and sometimes they don’t even have to ask.
Jul 26, 2014
Jared Felkins

“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”

— Voltaire

It’s no secret I love talking about my job. I’ll tell anyone who asks about it, and sometimes they don’t even have to ask. 

But since you asked, our newsroom is made up of a news editor, sports editor, two staff writers and myself. For a newspaper that serves roughly more than 116,000 residents in Wilson County and counting, we’re more or less akin to the Wilson County Board of Education. 

I can see now why there’s a referendum on the Aug. 7 ballot to call for two more board members. In fact, I didn’t quite understand why there were 25 commissioners until shortly after I was tasked with this job I love to talk about so much. 

I’d like to call for a referendum for two more staff members. Alas, we don’t serve at the will of the taxpayers. Well, in many respects we do. 

However, I see three distinct differences. Our elected officials make the policies, and we are tasked to scrutinize them. Our elected officials are just that…elected. They are hired by the voters, such as what we are tasked to do right now. We hire our employees ourselves at our own discretion and without input from the public. 

As an aside, the notion of term limits has surfaced again in this election just as it has with many others in the past and will in the future. My response to term limits is we are in the midst of those as we speak. They are called elections, plain and simple. 

Finally, the last thing that distinguishes us from our elected officials is they are funded by taxpayers. Yes, we are, as well, but we can’t require anyone to pay us unless we do a service for them, such as advertising. Whether the road outside my home gets paved doesn’t excuse me from paying taxes all the same. That’s the difference as I see it. 

As much as I dislike saying it sometimes, there are also some similarities. Elected officials are responsible for their actions and answer to the people. We are tasked with holding our elected officials accountable for those actions. Certainly we are responsible for our actions, and we do answer to the people in many respects. And the people hold us accountable for our actions, as well. 

In any case, the point I’m trying to make is I know how important my responsibility is to my job in the community. I take it very seriously, else I wouldn’t love talking about it so much. During this early voting time or Aug. 7 or even in November, please take the few minutes needed to vote. It might just be the most important thing you do. 

But back to what we do. If I could sum it up in two words, it would be ask questions. We ask tons of questions. Those questions lead to answers and more questions and eventually stories. 

We know there are questions that sometimes go unanswered for a myriad of reasons. In a lot of cases, situations change over time. Sometimes with a small staff and a whole lot of people to reach, these new circumstances fall off the radar, for whatever reason. Don’t consider that an excuse. The public’s expectations of us shouldn’t be compromised. 

And that’s where Mailbag becomes so important. It’s a chance for you to ask the questions and allow us to do what we do best and answer them. 

It’s that simple. You send us your questions, and we’ll do our dead-level best to find answers. 

The service started last week through an email I received from Cheryl Lewis. In full disclosure, Cheryl and I go to church together, but I didn’t ask her to send the question, and she didn’t know she would be part of the inaugural Mailbag. 

Cheryl asked some important questions about the role of constables in Wilson County. We got Sheriff Robert Bryan to address them. Most importantly, everyone now knows a little more about the subject. 

Another question I received via a concerned caller a few weeks ago led to me checking on the extradition status of an accused sexual predator, Stephen Eugene Beck, who was arrested in May in North Carolina. The results of that inquiry are on the front page of today’s newspaper. 

The point of all this is to keep you informed. We value your opinion and your interests. A lot of that depends on you. 

So send your questions to be answered to editor@lebanondemocrat.com, mail questions to The Lebanon Democrat, attention: mailbag, 402 N. Cumberland St., Lebanon, TN 37087 or call 615-444-3952, ext. 13. 

It can be on any topic, and it could result in an answer or, in concerned caller’s case, a story on the front page. 

Go ahead. Hold us accountable. That way we can do what we do best, and I can go on talking about this job I love. 

Jared Felkins is The Democrat’s director of content. Email him at jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com or follow him on Twitter @paperboyfelkins. 

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