Gustafson: Sharpening a blurry line | AspenTimes.com

Gustafson: Sharpening a blurry line

Britta Gustafson
Then Again

The first op-ed that I wrote was as counterintuitive to my journalistic instincts as swallowing vinegar to cure a stomachache. It seemed to be in opposition to everything I had practiced.

But over time, writing in first person about this community has proven to be an honor and a privilege. I don't take that privilege for granted.

Good writing doesn't always segue to salacious opinions and strong opinions are not always well informed.

I'm not sure where I settle into any critical analysis with this column, as I continue to fine-tune my approach.

Still, I can speak with honesty behind the integrity of my intentions. I cross-check my resources as I chip away at my word count, because I care wholeheartedly about this community and believe that I have no vested or self interests beyond that of a caring member of an extended family.

There should be a clear-cut distinction between reporting the facts and stating an opinion.

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I believe that I can speak for many in this profession who bear the responsibility of treading the waters of these divergent roles, attempting to keep that blurry line in focus despite all the challenges we face.

Reporters shoulder the responsibility of always pursuing that incisive line to seek out information and avoid injecting perspectives when chasing down answers. Opinion columnists, on the other hand, share their subjective thoughts while hopefully still providing accurate information.

Removing that human lens through which we all view our world and peeling off the many layers that form our unique thoughts keeps the clipping pace constant yet necessary for reporters.

Preventing ill-informed, over-impassioned and, at times, reactionary opinions from becoming inked explosions of rants that are no more informed than they are enlightened requires both self-control and a sense of the greater good at hand.

Writing this column and an occasional news story isn't my day job. I'm a full-time mother of two who works for a nonprofit educational farm. I also happen to have a background in news editorial and an extensive knowledge of Snowmass Village history.

But as I continually hone my skills while writing for this community, I take this endeavor seriously and strive to maintain balance as I try to bring the readers an informed opinion.

With that in mind, attacks on today's media feel personal, because I believe most journalists recognize how vital reporting is to our free society and we need to keep ourselves in check.

It's easy to be seduced, but opinions masked as fact cmay be one of the greatest dangers we now face, while fact-based opinions serve to offer information that is already thoroughly reviewed.

The line between news and opinion may seem blurry, but with the credibility of journalism at stake, perhaps the best approach is to invest as much old fashion leg-work into the reporting that forms the basis for an opinion as we would into a news report.

Social platforms like Facebook now give rise to the spread of a deluge of irresponsible opinions that flood our daily lives and print journalism is in jeopardy.

There is no question that we are approaching a new era or have unwittingly stepped into a new age of information overload that makes sensible, responsible journalism more challenging than ever.

Nonetheless, it remains as vital now as ever to keep all eyes open and aware.

I don't consider writing a column as an opportunity to pontificate on my parenting style, or to raise eyebrows in regards to personal vendettas or tackle subjects with which I'm vaguely familiar. I feel a responsibility to readers to raise awareness, open minds and ask pressing questions.

After all, who could pretend to have all of the answers?

I can take and appreciate criticism from readers and, of course, we often judge that which is closest under the highest micro-lens. I hold myself accountable and respect this responsibility and if I'm wrong, or haven't considered all viewpoints, I welcome further conversation.

But I feel passionate about my town and community and believe we need a newspaper filled with information to support our diversity.

During my years as an editorial assistant at the Snowmass Sun, I had the honor of working for some of the most thorough journalists who have written for this paper. I learned so much from their diligence and dedication to both this town and to the profession of journalism.

Those who have followed continue to advocate for Snowmass Village as a separate and distinct newsworthy entity.

This rag isn't just an advertising supplement and we can't allow it to become one. We still need print journalism; we need reporters to dig around in every small town to find the stories that affect our communities.

I used to believe that it went without saying that reporters would always seek the truth and speak that truth to power.

Without the media, who protects those segments of our society that are not represented in the room? Journalism, specifically print, is a profession embedded into the first amendment in our constitution and supports our system of checks and balances.

The Orwellian notion of describing anything that one disagrees with as "fake news" is a dangerous symptom of the serious illness that is afflicting this era of instant, constant, unfiltered and free-flowing of information.

I cannot articulate my concerns better than what has been said by notable former presidents, founding fathers and authors in the sidebar.

With the daunting challenge of venturing an opinion while continuing to focus on the middle line that can seem blurry at best, for every word that is printed within every small paper in every small town, we have a social responsibility to find our focus and never let go of our pursuit for truth.

Let's exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind; after all, if we always agree what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at brittag@ymail.com.