Sources help but cannot control

Our reporters and editors are not faultless, nor is their work. But they aim for perfection. They work — hard — to cover N’West Iowa and its people, governments, schools, businesses and events.

News stories and features are written after information is gathered, almost always after interviewing one or more people. Called sources in the news business, they help us understand the issue, the event, the people who are involved. We rely on their assistance and appreciate their willingness to help us report and reveal the truth about our region.

We owe them our thanks. We owe them a debt for giving us their time and expertise. But we do not owe them the right to read stories in advance and help shape or alter those reports.

That is something we cannot, and will not, do.

Recently, several people have asked reporters to provide them a copy of a story before it is published. They want to read and review it before it is in The N’West Iowa REVIEW or our other publications. Sorry, but that is not how our business operates, nor should it.

Accuracy is of course our No. 1 goal. We strive, through checking with numerous sources, with experienced reporters and seasoned editors, to provide fair, informative and accurate news stories.

Our more than 50-year tenure as a business, with thousands of readers, numerous awards and, most importantly, the respect and trust of our readers, advertisers and communities, proves we meet that lofty goal.

But that doesn’t mean we will stop working to improve. We do so by employing a newsroom larger than most newspapers our size, by setting high standards and holding our reporters and editors to them.

We also live by a code of ethics that journalists take very, very seriously.

One of them is not allowing sources to read stories in advance and permitting them to modify or revise them. We have to respectfully but firmly deny those requests. It raises legal and ethical issues that must not be dismissed, so, no, we will continue to refuse to let others read and approve our work in advance.

Yes, we will check stories. We may ask for a specific fact or statement to be confirmed. But that is a far cry from permitting someone to serve as a de facto editor.

That is our role, and one we will continue to perform. It’s a vital one in our system.

The Founding Fathers grew vexed with the press of their day, but they also were well aware of its importance.

“The liberty of the press is essential to the security of the state,” John Adams said.

That’s why the men who created this country wrote a strong and enduring defense of the role reporters and editors play.

The First Amendment is a powerful and deeply meaningful piece of the American fabric.

It states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

We take those words, that charge, that responsibility, extremely seriously.

We pledge to produce honest, accurate news and to inform, enlighten and educate our readers.

That is our vow, and we will do so without allowing sources to read, edit and approve our stories.