The Editor Who Said, ‘No Comment’

Oh, if only what was good for the goose was served up for the gander.

Sources — people interviewed by reporters and then quoted by them in news stories — are always concerned that their comments are quoted accurately. But you’d certainly think that a newspaper editor would be the last person to serve up a ‘no comment’ when the microphones and cameras turned on him.

Yet, that’s precisely what occurred when the fabulously monikered  Ossie Sheddy was asked by another newspaper’s reporter about a plaigarism investigation. Sheddy is the president of the board of the Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association. A member of its board lost his job amid the discovery of serial plagiarism.

According to The Telegram, Sheddy rolled out his defense thusly:

I don’t give quotes for fear of being misquoted,”he said. When pressed by The Telegram about why the president of the association wouldn’t say if it plans to investigate — and whether his refusal to be interviewed suggests a lack of confidence in newspaper reporting — Sheddy, the editor and publisher of the Drumheller Mail, said, “I’m not saying anything more because of what I had just told you. I can’t say anything about newspaper reporting or confidence in it. I can only say I have confidence in my newspaper reporting, not about anybody else’s.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the profession. But Sheddy’s shyness does underscore how fear can derail an opportunity to connect with key audiences through media interviews. Sheddy could have used his opportunity to simply reinforce the importance of journalism ethics. He could have emphasized the trustworthiness of the association’s publications, especially given the swift boot given the transgressing editor. At the very least, shy Sheddy could have made a statement about the importance of community newspapers — that, after all, comprise the association he leads — as vital communication channels.

Instead, he undermined confidence in all those things. If an editor can’t count on being quoted accurately, who can?