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Reader: Don't shoot the messengers, look in the mirror 

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While in public office, I was interviewed with some frequency by reporter Pam Zubeck ("Sheriff Elder lashes out at Indy reporter," News, Nov. 15). Topics varied depending on the story, but I was never misquoted and comments that I made were not written out of context in any of her articles.

I wish I had not made some of the comments I did. Frequently, I made them out of anger and the sheer frustration of working with county commissioners and their administrators. They were the ones I found lacking in integrity and honesty, not reporters and specifically not Ms. Zubeck. She would interview and question me several times to make sure facts were correct before going to press.

Public officials bear the brunt of assuming the responsibility for the actions of themselves and staff. Sometimes things go well, sometimes not so well and sometimes they just completely derail. When reporters cover the good, the bad and the ugly, we should be thankful for their keeping us informed of what our officials and their staffs are doing with their time and our money.

There are reporters who can be vindictive and dishonest in their coverage. My experience has been that it is the public officials who set the tone by their own truthfulness — or lack of — when it comes to their relationships with the press. When an officeholder chastises a reporter, publicly no less, something deeper is typically going on. It is usually an action or policy within his or her own department that they want to remain out of the public knowledge.

Mistakes were made by me and staff while I was in office. More often than not, I hadn't explained what needed to be done, when and how it was to be completed. I made decisions without having all the facts. I think retrospectively and want to do it all over. It's a bit too late for that but I've tried to learn from them. I've apologized to those I feel I've wronged. Some are very gracious, some tell me just to not bother them and some tell me to go to hell.

The point is that those of us who are or were blessed with the trust of holding office need to hold the mirror up and evaluate if we aren't the source of the bad message rather than the messenger.

— John M. Bass, El Paso County Assessor, 1999-2006

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