September 22, 2016
NOTE: The following is an opinion piece. The opinions stated in commentaries, here and otherwise in our newspaper, are those of the author and not The Brillion News, Zander Press Inc. or the owners or staff. The Brillion News welcomes letters to the editor to respond to this or any other topic of interest.
Commentary by Ed Byrne
Sometimes, being a trapeze or high-wire artist isn’t all it is cracked up to be. Balancing acts aren’t always easy. Just ask any old guy who tries riding a bicycle for the first time in 20 years.
Word that Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) was making the rounds and had gotten into the Brillion High School student community became a balancing act for us.
The newspaper is like a two-dimensional town crier, and there’s a sense of responsibility to do the right thing, even if it isn’t easy, even if some people would rather hide their heads in the sand.
Sounding an alarm is risky if you get it wrong. That’s the old “crying wolf” situation.
But not sharing a concern is really irresponsible, too. “Better late than never” is really a coward’s way out of responsibility.
When I was in college, eating dinner in the cafeteria, one of my buddies who worked in the kitchen told me after I‘d eaten that there were flies all over the kitchen “and some of them got stirred into the raisin pudding.”
So what’s why the raisins were so crunchy! Too bad the guy didn’t warn me earlier.
County 911 centers take the heat for not sounding the tornado siren when in doubt. When a citizen called us and said that HFMD was out in the BHS community, we decided to let people know what we were hearing.
Some folks had a problem with that. One person said we had no business warning the community that a communicable disease was in town. But, as our publisher Beth Wenzel made clear, we should not be hiding a public health issue.
The school district was nervous about us bringing the topic up in public. Despite that, we chose transparency over secrecy. It was risky. If we had gotten it wrong, we would have had to eat crow and apologize.
“Would you like Hollandaise sauce with your baked crow?”
But we feel we did get it right, and doing the risky thing was the right course of action.
We gave out information that was essentially a warning to parents and kids, so they could avoid coming down with a viral illness that is contagious and painful.
That’s what a responsible newspaper does. It isn’t always pretty, but sometimes it is necessary.
Byrne’s commentary was featured in the September 22, 2016 edition of The Brillion News.