Thursday, July 18, 2024
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Curious case of blindfolding public interest

As I make my way through any given working day during the average working week, there will be almost certainly more than a couple of times when I simply stop and shake my head.

It could be for any number of reasons that I consider what I have just been told or what I have just read to be beyond belief. The news can be astonishing to the point of disbelief, leaving me with many more questions than answers.

It is not often I am lost for words, tho, as I get ever older, I am getting better and choosing when it may be a better option to say nothing at all.

The intermittent incredulity could come from many varied sources, such as a mind-boggling decision from the district court, the poorly chosen words of an elected official, or perhaps a shocking statistic from the health sector that has caught us all by surprise.

Frankly, there is no end of possible sources of said matter.

Nonetheless, I have been shaking my head for the best part of a day on learning about the events at a meeting in Featherston on Thursday night.

The meeting was arranged after details of changes to local library hours received plenty of feedback from the community. It became increasingly obvious that the community was less than impressed.

Hence the meeting, which was booked at short notice, in an effort to provide an opportunity to exchange views in an informal setting. Informal as in relaxed, friendly, or unofficial style, manner, or nature.

The relaxed and friendly aspect went out the door with the Local Democracy reporter, who was asked to leave by an elected official no less.

It would seem that library hours are a highly sensitive topic, and the discussions about which are confidential.

You could be forgiven for thinking the library is more about the community, the vast majority of whom might not have been able to attend the meeting on Thursday night and may have wanted to have known what happened. No such consideration was afforded when the media representative was asked to leave.

I can’t believe this happened.

Despite what some at the meeting may have thought, there were options open to them. No one is forced to have their picture in the paper. No one is forced to give their name. You can speak openly and freely at such meetings and ask for anonymity. The request will be granted. Quite simple.

For that matter, the whole idea of a public meeting in a public place is that anyone can come, and anyone can speak.

You don’t have to do either. That would be your choice. Freedom of choice. If you wanted to speak privately, you could get on the phone, or email etc. The public forum might not be your bag. No problem.

I hear the phrase “able to speak freely and frankly” increasingly more in political circles.

I sometimes interpret this as speaking behind closed doors, or secretly. It is an excuse. It is a strategy to avoid full scrutiny. Not every meeting, of course, but far too many.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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