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Column: Back in the saddle again
Martin Cahn (2019).jpg
Martin L. Cahn

So, here I am in my old new ... or is that “new old”? ... office again, serving as editor of this newspaper.

As you can see with my new “mugshot” over there to the right, I’m a little older and, hopefully, a little wiser, than the last time I sat in this chair.

Just a little history for any newcomers: I started working here at the Chronicle-Independent in July 2000 as a reporter, worked my way up to assistant editor in 2005 and became editor -- for the first time -- in 2012. In 2016, I left the paper to work elsewhere. That lasted all of five months, and I try not to count it. I returned in January 2017 as senior writer and am now editor again.

One of the underlying principles I try to work by goes something like this: If I’m going to expect transparency from our governing bodies as a “watchdog” journalist, then I need to be transparent, too.

That’s why I love having a space like this by which to “talk” to you, the reader. This column serves as my chance to voice my opinions about any number of things, from local goings-on to national issues. Think of it as my release valve -- we all need one.

I also believe in responsible free speech, though, especially when it comes to the First Amendment rights to a free press and individual free expression.

What I’m getting at is that while you’ll see my opinion voiced here, you shouldn’t find it on the front page. I work very hard to separate how I feel about something from my responsibility as a journalist to report the news so that you have as unblemished an account as possible of a city council meeting, an election or even a parade down on Rutledge Street.

I may rant on a particular policy or gush about that parade in this column, but you should find “just the facts, ma’am” -- along with the occasional bit of analysis where necessary -- in my news stories as well as reports from other writers whom I edit.

You have the right to know where I’m coming from and the right not to have my stories laced with my particular slant of thinking.

Bottom line: I try to be fair.

More to the point, I respect your ability to come to your own conclusions. I may pontificate here and there on this page, but you certainly don’t need me to hold your hand as you read the front page. I believe our readers are intelligent enough to read critically (in the classical sense of the term) in order to make decisions about their lives, who to vote for and whether or not a policy is the right one for our elected officials to be following.

When I think it’s appropriate, I will use this space to explain how we approached a story so that you can judge for yourself whether or not it did the job we intended.

And what is that job?

Long-time readers know I believe our mission is to inform, educate and, when appropriate, to entertain the citizens of Kershaw County. I do not use those terms frivolously.

Your right to know is one of my strongest beliefs. That means our first priority is to inform you about what’s going on. That means writing and publishing stories that focus on what our elected officials do at their meetings. It also means letting you know what cases our law enforcement officials are pursuing, and who they’ve arrested. These are just some examples.

I’m a huge proponent of open government and freedom of information, so another piece of informing you means going to bat on your behalf to ferret our those things our public bodies do behind closed doors that should have been done in the public light.

Educating you doesn’t mean dumbing things down or being condescending. It means, as examples, explaining how something might transform the county in some way; or how it could affect you, your children, and your family; or hit your wallet and pocket book.

Finally, if we can entertain you on occasion -- bringing a smile to your face -- that’s good, too. Those are, usually, where our stories about your neighbors (whether next door or across the county) and their adventures come in.

This is what we do; it’s my job as editor to make sure we do it well.

You deserve no less.