OUR VIEW: There’s more than one side to every story

Last week, news seekers in the bayou region were done a disservice.

They were given what they wanted to hear.

Not what they needed to hear.

That’s often a fine line for news providers – especially in relatively rural areas where the ideals of those who consume the news often permeate into those providing it – blurring the line even further.

The fundamental difference between journalism and public relations is that regardless of a journalist’s individual beliefs, those thoughts are never expressed while telling a story. Public relations is done with a set of biases, driving decisions making.

Last week, you were given public relations, not journalism, when HTV’s “Bayou Time” covered a series of events, which transpired at the Road Runner, a Houma-based convenience store and gas station.

We won’t rehash the accounts of the events that happened there nor all of the inaccuracies and insensitive (in some cases downright offensive) opinions that were stated and repeated on live television. You can read all about that on Page 8 in fair and unbiased reporting from Senior Writer John DeSantis.

Instead, we merely want to point out that the picture painted on the editions of “Bayou Time” last Monday and last Wednesday were one-sided accounts clearly designed to push only one side of the story over another.

And you, the news seekers of the bayou region, deserve better.

Upon receiving information from a local well-respected neurosurgeon and dually noted highly decorated U.S. military veteran regarding an incident that transpired between he and a “Middle Eastern” clerk, HTV’s brass could go down one of two roads.

Road No. 1: Release the info in a bias-from-the-get-go fashion on the night leading into Veterans Day, resulting in a splash.

Or, road No. 2: Vet the info, talk to multiple sources on both sides of the issue and make every possible attempt to tell a fair, balanced and accurate story while letting the consumer make up his or her mind on which way to side.

On this instance, HTV chose road No. 1, and we at The Times, as we always do, chose road No. 2.

Now, this isn’t to say that we disapprove of all of HTV’s journalistic decisions as a whole. We have enjoyed many editions of “Bayou Time” as well as other programming on the channel, and any journalist who says he or she hasn’t handled stories incorrectly in his or her career would be a liar. However, learning from those missteps are the experiences that make us all better not just at our careers but at life.

The public needs to count on its local news to be unbiased. That is, all members of the public need to count on its local news to be unbiased. When two parties feel wronged, both sides of the story must be told. Not just the more popular side to the readership, listenership or viewership.

Put yourself in the shoes of Sadar Sikhada, the clerk during the event, and the owner of the store in which the event happened.

Sikhada has been uprooted and is working in another city.

The owner had to close his business for one day and assuredly has felt the financial effects since and will into the future.

Heck, you could argue that both of these results happened directly because of the way the story was portrayed on “Bayou Time.”

Now ask yourself, is that really the role that our local news should play?

Granted “Bayou Time” did not plan the rally last Wednesday, but it’s portrayal of the story certainly condoned it. And it’s those subtle decisions that go much deeper than the things journalists say or print that go into every decision we make.

It is human nature to want to be liked. Even for journalists.

But it’s more important to be respected.

And if you’re not willing to do choose being respected over being liked when situation dictates, you’re not a journalist. Even if you claim to be one.