Free Weekly No PR Machine

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By Terrah Baker

Phew. What a week. Learning the ins and outs of The Free Weekly is no easy task, but luckily it’s one with many rewards. It’s also one that holds great responsibility to readers, the community and, of course, the people who write my paycheck. With that responsibility there will no doubt be judgment, of which I have learned in the past to accept by repeating the common mantra “you can’t please everyone.”

Often, as a reporter, you write an article not knowing exactly where the story will go as it unfolds. Everyone has a different outlook on, and dare I say perception of, reality, which forms their opinions on topics and life occurrences. Take the story I wrote on Ozark Natural Foods that ran July 12. (Yes, this is my subtle way of addressing concerns about this story.)

Having heard many of the rumors concerning the turmoil that seems to follow in ONF’s financially-successful path, I went into this story knowing the array of opinions and perceptions, both positive and negative, I would encounter. When I began researching owners’ comments online and from personal acquaintances, it became clear, quickly, that I did not have enough room or time to include every opinion, and the past could only be considered just that, if some conclusion was to be reached following the controversy.

So, I chose my direction: What does the future look like for ONF? I thought my first step would be to talk with the people who really make those decisions that affect ONF on a day-to-day basis — Marketing Director Alexa McGriff, who in a sense speaks for much of the staff (or at least communicates with them regularly), General Manager Alysen Land, who was just rehired to take ONF in a direction that has been voted on by the governing board; and Board of Directors President Joshua Youngblood and other board members (or at least the two who responded to a request for an interview).

These individuals reiterated the same ideas of moving forward, opening communication and letting go of the past, as was demonstrated by the staff’s decision to go back to work, and the board’s decision to dismiss complaints and bring back Land. In this way, I was giving to the readers what I thought they needed — a dose of the facts — which in this case is the governing powers that be “can’t please everyone,” and their moving forward with their past decisions concerning “business” structure, whether you — or I — like it.

All of this while dealing with the one restraint often placed on print journalists — space. With not enough space (and time) to include every aspect of ONF’s business structure, past, present and future, all a reporter can do is choose a direction, or let the people and facts choose it for them. In this case, maybe there are many questions left unanswered, but unfortunately, I, nor any other journalist, can answer or address them all in one article.

The point to this column is not to defend myself (although I tried), but to ensure you my intentions were not to provide public relations for ONF or to support or discourage any certain agenda, practice or decision made.

TFW, if nothing else, does not avoid controversy, (as I am proving with this response) and is not afraid to provide the facts, good or bad.

Because of the high response rate, we have planned a follow-up article to address many concerns still lingering over ONF’s — and now our — head. So, although we know we can’t please everyone, that doesn’t mean we’re not going to try.

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