Since February 2007 I have written a column each week to keep constituents informed about occurrences in state and local government.
The feedback from an article from two weeks ago inspired me to write about the methodology I have developed over time and now use when creating these columns.
Positive content should be featured most of the time. It is too easy, especially in times like these, to make the mistake of highlighting the negative at the expense of the positive. I have observed many positive occurrences in state and local government and intend to highlight the positive at a significant ratio to the negative. Columns containing less-than-positive news must be produced in accordance with firm procedures.
Two weeks ago this update described a lawmaker who obviously slow played a vote in an attempt to avoid taking a tough stand. Several people wanted to know this person’s identity. I did not disclose it! It was not my motive to embarrass or bring attention to this specific individual’s action. Rather, the story was designed to illustrate the importance of requiring lawmakers to vote on every issue.
Only in very rare circumstances would I cast a negative light on the actions of named individuals. This is based in part on observations made when researching the history of House District 31. I enjoy visiting the Oklahoma History Center and reading through old copies of local newspapers. This provides perspective on the events of the past and their effect on the current day. I have noted the tone of some of the negative content where one person was attacking or questioning the motives of another in a column or letter to the editor. Now, years after those angry words were printed, they cause me to question the spirit of the writer. His harsh words are preserved for all to see, long after the specifics of the dispute have been forgotten.
Sometimes the best articles are written in the emotion of the moment. But those articles should never be released until enough time has passed to rationally decide whether or not to submit.
A few weeks ago I published an article titled, “When Faith Meets Politics.” Substantial parts of the article were written on an iPad using Google Docs during a caucus meeting. There is nothing like seeing politicians in action to inspire both negative and positive observations such as those included in that article.
Fortunately, I held on to the article for some time and refined it only after getting feedback from trusted friends. After the conclusion of the legislative session and after much consideration, I released it. In retrospect, it was appropriate to release this update after waiting for a bit.
The best practice governing the release of these articles goes as follows. An article written in the emotional of the moment should not be immediately distributed. When the article names someone and puts them in a less than positive light, it should be put through the following filter. If my son or grandson reads this article in 30 years, will he think it is fair and just? Or will he be ashamed his father or grandfather unjustly attacked the reputation of a fellow colleague?
This would all be a moot point if it were not for your readership. As always, thank you for reading these columns and thank you for your continued feedback and input.
REP. JASON MURPHEY, R-Guthrie, represents House District 31, which encompasses all of Logan County and a portion of northern Edmond. He may be reached via email at email@example.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/JasonMurphey and Twitter.com/JWMurphey.