Katie Rohman: Why it’s not our place to judgePublished 7:44pm Wednesday, December 29, 2010
A Niles woman named Courtney Barney was awarded The Inspiration Scholarship Foundation’s third annual Mary J. Wilkinson Scholarship Dec. 17.
She was given a $1,000 scholarship and a pen.
The Star printed this story and a photo, released by Southwestern Michigan College, in our Monday issue.
Another Leader Publications newspaper, the Dowagiac Daily News, printed it Thursday.
I didn’t think anything of it.
This was just an inspiring story about a first-year college student who overcame challenges to better herself.
However, not everyone agrees. I received a call Monday from a very angry reader and father of a college student who claims that the Star is “promoting” “having children out of wedlock” by printing the story.
Barney, a mother of three kids — two of whom were born while she was a high-schooler — obtained her GED earlier this year and is studying to become a nurse.
According to SMC, “The scholarship is awarded each year by the foundation to a single parent who is attending Southwestern Michigan College and who demonstrates financial need as well as a desire to inspire his or her children through obtaining a college education.”
The caller — who did not identify himself and does not know Barney — said that students like her are stealing scholarships from non-single parent students. He claimed we never run stories about Niles or Brandywine students who receive scholarships.
This, of course, is not true.
We run any story about scholarship recipients, no matter their age, marital status or circumstance. The same applies for awards, dean’s lists, military honors and other accolades.
My point is this: It’s not the issue that I received a call from an unhappy reader. Part of the job is to listen to readers’ comments, good or bad.
However, another aspect of my job is not to judge.
I don’t know Barney. My opinion about her life choices is irrelevant. If it was, I would not be writing for a newspaper.
My job is to report news for the public.
We cannot base how we choose our stories on whether or not we agree with the featured issue.
I choose which stories to run based on what is relevant to readers, and that usually falls under one of five categories: personal interests, way of life, kids’ safety, cost of living and tax-related issues. There are other “scrapbook-ready” items, like obits, births, announcements, and yes, scholarships.
Some stories are interesting topics for readers, like the Food Network coming to the ice festival or George Clooney scouting St. Joseph for a film.
Readers do not agree with what we print all the time, and I continue to welcome their input. As always, if a story or photo runs in our paper and you question the decision, please contact me.
Katie Rohman is managing editor of the Niles Daily Star, Off the Water, Cassopolis Vigilant and Edwardsburg Argus. She can be reached at (269) 687-7713 or at katie.rohman@ leaderpub.com.