Voices of Truth: Nancy West, Bill Ketter
There is no doubt I am a fan of journalists. To go through these last four years witnessing their denigration and defamation brings me to this essay to remind folks of two incredible journalists who search for the truth.
Nancy West is the Executive Director and founder of the New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism and InDepthNH.org. Since January 2015, this site has been "Dedicated to investigative reporting in New Hampshire."
"InDepthNH.org fearlessly reports unbiased investigative news about government, the environment, education, criminal justice, mental health, and other matters of public interest. Our experienced, award-winning journalists also provide enhanced State House coverage where we fight for government transparency."
Take it from someone who knows; Nancy West is one tough cookie. I know firsthand as she and I worked at the Union Leader and were in the same union. I was on the leadership team for a few years, and contract negotiations were not going well. Anyone who has been on the opposite side of Joe McQuaid, former publisher of the UL, knows just how tough he can be during union negotiations. In a union contract meeting, two sides face each other. Hearing the results of that day's session, Nancy was not too happy with the negotiating team of which I was one. She and I encountered one another in the ladies' room and another very tough journalist and wanted to know what was up with the talks. I'm not sure if Nancy will recall this, but I do to this day. I stood my ground and gained more respect for her and pity for the person or organization she would doggedly go after.
To paraphrase one of my favorite writers, Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the play and the movie, A Few Good Men, when Guantanamo Base Commander Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) says, "You want me on that wall. You need me on that wall," I think of Nancy West and the group of journalistic professionals who help produce InDepthNH.org. You want Nancy West and Bob Charest at the NH State House. You want them investigating the secret Laurie's List that looks at the dealings of certain cops. You will laugh at Mike Marland's editorial cartoons. Full disclosure, from now on InDepthNH.org, will be publishing my monthly essays.
In August 2019, I spoke to Bill Ketter, Senior Vice President/News at Community Newspaper Holdings, regarding United Press International and my book Stories from the Rolodex. His office is in the Eagle-Tribune newspaper in Lawrence, Mass. We start with the Rolodex, which he compared to the case with the nuclear launch codes and is always with the president. "The Rolodex was always in the office, and the rule was, got a source, put it in the Rolodex."
Ketter has credentials. On his About page on LinkedIn, he writes, "Served as editor of the Lawrence, Mass., Eagle-Tribune for several years, highlighted by the paper winning the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news. Previously, reporter, editor, and vice president with United Press International, and vice president and editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Mass., rated one of the top non-metro papers in the country by Time magazine."
"We do our job," Ketter said of the work that journalists do. "Ensuring credibility and professionalism to service the democracy we enjoy. There are many critics of the job of journalism. The public sometimes thinks we do more harm than good. Our mission is to report what the public want, need, and value."
"We can't stray from our mission. The purpose of journalism is to be the guide dog to people, to provide the day-to-day information, and be the watchdog – our job is to hold accountability over the powerful money influence."
Bill said that serving on the Pulitzer's Board that made the winners' selection was a highlight of his journalistic career that spans decades. "Discussions were so deep and intense and helpful. It upped the quality of what we do." He was a member of the Pulitzer Board along with William Safire, the syndicated political columnist for The New York Times. He said that Safire was a "marvelous, lyrical conversationalist." The board picks the winners, and there was an intensity in the panel. They would bring in past Pulitzer winners and many deep thinkers and look at the articles' principles and ensure they were fact evidence-based. He considered it a great experience to uphold the Pulitzer standards. In the many serious discussions of the articles up for the award, imperfections were caught.
To borrow from Mr. Sorkin again, "One man," and I add one woman, "will stop at nothing to find the truth." and all of this is crystal clear.
Beverly Stoddart is a writer, author, and speaker. Her book Stories from the Rolodex is available now. www.BeverlyStoddart.com