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About getting involved

November 13, 2007 - LLee Janssen

A young reporter who covered last night's hearing in Milton on tolling Interstate 80 came into my office today somewhat distressed by the number of empty seats in the auditorium where it was staged.

She's relatively young in her career, and has grown by leaps in bounds in her relatively short time at the newspaper. But she gets it. She's one of those whose eyes are being continually opened to our Democratic processes and way of life.

As the reporter who picks up on the PennDOT news and is assigned most of the stories related to bridges and highways, she's been paying a lot of attention to the toll issue.

In this region, there seems to be a lot of opposition to the plan, which is viewed as an unfair way to fund big-city transportation problems with rural dollars. Yet despite all of this opposition, there wasn't enough energy to get people out to a meeting and fill the seats, even if not to speak but to show support through a presence. And this is what the reporter found disturbing.

It's apathy, an attitude of caring enough to complain but not caring enough to get involved and actually try to do something.

Or maybe most people feel the way some of those at the hearing do: What value is it if the Turnpike Commission isn't listening, if our elected officials aren't hearing us and doing what common people want?

While this may not sound too good for our society, it's refreshing to me as a news editor to see this twentysomething whose peers get their news from You Tube, to see her coming awake to the parts of our Democracy that too many others take for granted. And to see her grow as a journalist.

We sent her to a Pennsylvania Newspaper Association "boot camp" earlier this year. She returned with newfound energy and understanding behind what this job involves. Journalism, she learned, is what gives us the ability to live and prosper in a free and independent society. I'm proud of her ... she cares about what goes on, and that gives rise to passion for her work.

Overwhelmingly, the newsmen and women who fill this office have that passion, regardless of how they are viewed during the course of gathering the news. Sometimes it's not so much about which side of an issue gets the majority's favor as it is about caring enough to do something. What we do is report the news, with the goal being to shed light on the various aspects of any given issue ... it's up to individuals living and invested in our region to step forward and be a participant in the decision-making process.

While the hearing room last night may have boasted many empty seats, it should be noted that about 100 people did care enough to leave the comforts of their homes after a long day's work to take a stand. And hundreds more have read the reports online already today, while the news was delivered to about 30,000 homes in our print edition.

So focus on the empty seats, or focus on those who cared enough to show up, it's anybody's choice. But care, just care enough to be interested in an issue, and the outcome, who knows, may not be as predictable as some would think.


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