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We need you as much as you need us | Coyle
While working on my latest story regarding bullying at Mill Creek Middle School, I ran into several obstacles in regards to finding information on the situation at the school.
I wanted to get reports from teachers who were genuinely worried and who would provide me with an honest view of the problems the school faced, but it was difficult to get those resources.
Finding people to speak honestly and without reservation about the conditions at Mill Creek was like pulling teeth. Any teacher or faculty member not specifically provided to me by the district was terrified of losing their job by speaking to me honestly about the situation.
It's a disturbing sign of the times when people who know the most about a situation feel vulnerable and afraid to go to the media to discuss it. Whistleblowers are an important part of history, and it's become harder than ever to discuss issues and problems without fear of repercussions.
The issue of quashing information dissemination to the press isn't anything new. Every decade seems to have its whistleblowers, whether it's Deep Throat or Edward Snowden. But those names relate to the FBI, NSA and CIA. National security is an understandable — if sometimes overused — reason to restrict information.
Organizations — whether they are public or private — that limit journalist access should always be viewed with a healthy amount of skepticism. The public must always ask why an organization is so hesitant to give out some information but limit other kinds. Sometimes it's guarded for security, other times for privacy of people involved.
The people I spoke with for work on the Mill Creek story were employees of the Kent School District. The information they had to divulge hurts no one but the district's reputation. If anything, it brings to light a problem that could be widespread in the school district but is underreported and buried beneath bullying prevention plans which, as far as I can tell from eyewitness reports, fall on deaf ears.
I guess where I'm going with this is that the Kent Reporter needs the public just as much as the public needs us. We need you to tell us things that the schools and police and city and businesses don't tell us. We need you to tell us the actual human details about a person beyond "they're a nice person" or "they work really hard."
The nature of our work requires us to mine information from unconventional sources, but that doesn't mean that we don't need the community's help to discuss problems.