Watchman on the Walls

In Ezekiel 3, God commissions the prophet as a watchman on the walls. The commission carries great responsibility. He is instructed to keep watch. If danger comes, he is to warn his fellow citizens. If they heed his warning, the country will be spared. If he fails to issue the warning, their destruction will be on his head. He will be held accountable. If he fulfills his duty and his fellow citizens ignore the warning, the consequences fall on them. He has done his duty.

Reporters are the watchmen on the walls for our states. We observe what is happening around us and report to our fellow citizens. We are responsible to report, to warn if you will. What to do with the information rests with our listeners and those who view our websites.

I have been contemplating the role of a watchman as I have watched this political season unfold. My career as a political reporter stretches back to 1980 when I worked as a part-time reporter for a small radio station in Warrensburg while completing my college degree. It became intoxicating, exhilarating and mesmerizing.

Such emotions carry a young reporter past the fatigue of long hours and an endless “To Do” list through the thrill of reporting on election night. I became hooked.

I’m still hooked. I still enjoy the job. Time and the changes that have taken place the past 30 years have given me a perspective I lacked when I first started.

Politics seems to suck everyone in to playing the game. Democrats say this. Republicans counter with that. Words escalate. Rhetoric intensifies. The objective of it all, choosing those who will governor for us, seems to get lost in a cascade of competing commercials.

The public still deserves a watchman on the walls, someone who understands that this isn’t a game. The public still needs that person to observe, to report, perhaps even to warn. Most people will never meet a candidate for state representative or senate, let alone a candidate for Congress. They cannot be blamed for being confused by the funhouse mirror distortion of campaign commercials. They need someone who will cut through carefully crafted campaign messages, ask the tough questions, get the answers and report them accurately without bias. They need a watchman on the walls.

All of us who are reporters get discouraged this time of year, because we aren’t sure whether our hard work gets across, whether it does indeed cut through the clutter to make a difference. It’s difficult to tell.

In Ezekiel 33, God renews the prophet’s commission, his call as a watchman. He repeats that the duty of a watchman is to issue the warning and, if he doesn’t, the destruction of the country will be on his head. It is up to his fellow citizens to heed that warning. Our duty, in these last few days prior to November 2nd, is to climb up on the walls, to keep an eye out, to report clearly. The results fall to those who will hear and act.

Missourinet Managing Editor Brent Martin is the President of the National Association of State Radio Networks News Directors group. He wrote this for his fellow news directors and reporters in the latest NASRN newsletter. He addresses the responsibilities reporters have in political campaigns and the responsibilities citizens have, too. – Bob Priddy

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