That was one reader’s assessment of our story exploring the legality of duck hunting on Crowninshield (Brown’s) Island, which was published in our Jan. 11 edition.
Specifically, the reader charged the Current of “condoning illegal activity.”
He then — helpfully — pointed us to Section 5C of Chapter 131 of the Massachusetts General Laws, which makes it a crime to “to intentionally… block, follow, impede or otherwise harass another who is engaged in the lawful taking of fish or wildlife.”
In other words, the reader was letting us know that, while the premise of our story was to investigate whether the hunters were engaged in illicit activities, we should have instead — or at least also — set our sights on the resident who acknowledged that was seeking to “intimidate” the hunters by tracking them with his camera.
We suggested he write a letter, both so that he could get credit for his contribution to the discussion but also because he would be able to do something we could not in a news story: offer an opinion, warning his camera-wielding neighbor away from his legally dubious activity.
The reader declined this invitation, insisting that the onus was on the Current to round out the picture.
Again, fair enough. Visit the online version of the duck hunting story today, and you will find an addendum quoting the state law.
But another aspect of our exchange gave us pause. The reader characterized the original article as “extremely biased” because we not only reported what the man with the camera was up to without citing Chapter 131 but also because we shared his intentionally inflammatory remarks, in which he described his disdain for “men in a gun fetishizing relationship.”
“If someone said that they thought the 25 mph required speed limit through town is ridiculous and they intend to continue to drive 40 mph through town, would you quote them?” the man asked.
We reflected on that. Leaving aside how unlikely it might be that someone would make such an admission to a local journalist, we concluded that we probably would, in fact, quote that person (though we would perhaps go further and affirmatively notify the local police, too).
To do otherwise would be to save the person from themselves and make the community less safe. In other words, that would arguably be a form of “extreme bias” in favor of a would-be speed limit scofflaw.
The whole exchange — which ended with a polite “thank you” from our reader — caused us to reflect on the nature — and limits — of our role in the at-times messy, iterative, participatory process of learning together for which a local newspaper provides a forum.
When we hold up a mirror to the community — in this case to duck hunters on Brown’s Island and to the man chasing them with a camera — there is no implicit endorsement. Whenever we investigate the answer to one question, others may be lurking just out of view. If someone calls our attention to those questions, we’ll share the answers to those as we are able, too. We genuinely want your feedback — good, bad or otherwise — and can look past an unkind word or two if there’s some constructive criticism behind it.
As we sit here a week later, questions that remained murky as they were batted around on social media now have a more definitive answer. We all know a bit more, both about whether duck hunting is permitted on Brown’s Island and whether it is OK to harass those hunters with a camera.
On this and future subjects, we may print some of the first words, but we do not need the last words, too.
If you want them, those will always belong to you.
About the Current Editorial Board
This is the first editorial of the Marblehead Current. A proud journalistic tradition, editorials represent the opinion of the institution of a newspaper or media entity. As such, they are typically unsigned.
As a non-profit entity, the Current won’t be endorsing political candidates, but we will be weighing in on issues important to our town and its citizens.
Editorials, by their nature, have a point of view. We also welcome opposing views in the form of letters to the editor. Please let us know what you think!
The members of the Current’s editorial board are Ed Bell, who serves as chairman, and Virginia Buckingham, both members of the Current’s board of directors; Kris Olson and Will Dowd, members of the Current’s editorial staff; and Robert Peck and Joseph P. Kahn. Peck is an attorney and former chairman of Marblehead’s Finance Committee, and Kahn is a retired Boston Globe journalist.
The Current Editorial Board
The members of the Current’s editorial board are Ed Bell, who serves as chairman, and Virginia Buckingham, both members of the Current’s board of directors; Kris Olson and Will Dowd, members of the Current’s editorial staff; and Robert Peck and Joseph P. Kahn. Peck is an attorney, former chairman of Marblehead’s Finance Committee and a former Select Board member. Kahn is a retired Boston Globe journalist.