Last week, The Lake Oswego Review published an article detailing past issues involving City Council candidate Emma Burke's ex-husband. Although the article vindicated Burke and said she had limited business involvement with her ex-husband, the newspaper was quickly criticized and the article condemned, with some Facebook commentators labeling it as "salacious" and "irrelevant." Others went so far as to proclaim that the paper was on the verge of becoming a tabloid.
But after watching the controversy smear across Lake Oswego's online realm, I find myself standing by The Review's decision to publish the article. Let's break it down step by step.
Many online observers have said that this story is irrelevant and should not affect the overall perception of the candidate. That very well may be true, but that is not for a handful of Facebook commentators to decide. The Review took the facts as they were and published them, which allows for individual voters to decide for themselves if this issue is at all relevant to Burke's candidacy. The Review did, in my opinion, what all newspapers should do: inform the public, and let the public decide.
Some have also argued that this was an example of extreme sexism and that these same standards would not be applied to male candidates. While I do believe that sexism is prevalent throughout our society, especially in politics, this specific accusation is unfounded considering that critics have yet to provide any example of when The Review ignored a similar story about a male candidate. You cannot accuse the paper of being sexist when that accusation is solely based on an assumption that has yet to be proven in any tangible manner.
Aside from sexist standards, critics contend that this type of examination in general is what discourages people from jumping into politics. While I admit that this article is part of the more "difficult" side of politics, it is a part that we cannot do without. We have to have high standards for those seeking to hold positions of power and responsibility, even in small city council races. We cannot lower our level of scrutiny simply because these issues and controversies are uncomfortable and inconvenient. Voters deserve to have every piece of public information in front of them so that they can cast the most educated vote possible.
Furthermore, this article truly demonstrated exceptional journalism. After receiving over half a dozen tips, the paper's reporter immediately started to investigate, looking over court records and old newspaper clippings. He told the whole story with not even an inkling of bias or selectiveness. As a journalism student at Lake Oswego High School, I can assure you that this type of reporting is what we are taught to replicate. His reporting was fair and comprehensive.
In a larger sense, the responses that this controversy has evoked appear to me to be eerily similar to the remarks our president frequently makes. When the news is unfavorable, he slams it as "fake news." In our own local case, The Review has been labeled as "dirty" and characterless. But The Review, or any other reputable news agency, should not be subjected to criticism for reporting the facts.
To vilify The Review for this article is to undermine the purpose and duty of the paper. It is not enough to only defend the free press against the president's attacks; you have to be willing to do it in your own community. To paraphrase writer Scott Howard Phillips, you cannot choose specific moments to defend the importance and role of our free press — you must defend it consistently or be against it consistently.
Michael Murray is a junior at Lake Oswego High School, the founder and executive director of Hunger Fighters Oregon and a member of Lake Oswego's Youth Leadership Council. Look for his column on issues affecting the city and schools on the last Thursday of every month in The Review.