Opinion: Sometimes having your name in the news can be a bummer

The first time my name got in the local paper (that I remember, anyway), I was pretty excited.

It was actually on a byline of an article I’d written that the local paper published. It made me feel pretty good to see that.

Since then, well, I’ve gotten pretty used to seeing my name in print; it really doesn’t do much for me. But I understand when people get excited when they get their name or picture in the newspaper. Even in this day and age of ego-boosting Web pages, it still means something to see yourself in print.

When we took over The New Era, I went over a few ground rules with my kids, who were used to having a journalist around, but for whom this was going to be a different experience ? having their parents run a community newspaper. One of those rules was that they shouldn’t expect to see themselves in the paper unless they do something that would get anybody in the paper ? things like qualifying for the state athletic championships or getting a prominent part in a school play, or something like that. I also warned them that they could get their name in the paper in a different way, and that if they did it wouldn’t be pretty.

The reason is simple: This paper isn’t about me or my family. It’s about the community. Sure, I share occasional thoughts and perspectives, as I’m doing now in this column, but that’s it. The rest of it is about everybody else.

So I’m really annoyed today to see my name in the paper on page 5. I’m not there because I wrote an article. I’m there because I made the Police Beat. It’s every journalist’s nightmare ? being in your own paper because you screwed up.

In my case, I was driving to cover an event last Saturday with one of my daughters in the truck. She needed a tissue, I was trying to find her a tissue, I took my eyes off the road for a second too long ? enough said. The driver in front of me was very unhappy after I slammed into his trunk. I was unhappy. My daughter was unhappy.

And now I’m unhappy that I’m in the paper. But I’m in the paper because I did something that impacted society, in this case, causing the local police to have to come over to sort things out on a sunny Saturday afternoon and forcing a long stream of drivers on Highway 228 have to work their way around our messed-up vehicles.

Occasionally, here at The New Era, we get complaints from people about the fact that they had their names published in the paper because they got a ticket or got arrested for something. We print a lot of good news ? in fact most of our front page today is good news. But when people do wrong, or in some cases simply make mistakes, we cover that as well. Our job is to give our readers as honest a look at the community ? good and bad ? as possible. And sometimes it can be embarassing. I’m embarassed.

The bottom line is, if you don’t want your name appearing in the paper like mine did, behave yourself.

There are better ways to spend your time than having to explain why you ended up in the Police Beat.