Words matter | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Words matter

News of the death of Brainerd's Patt Krantz, brought to mind a lesson she taught me — one every reporter should keep in mind.

Patt was an energetic woman, an active member of Trinity Lutheran Church and a tireless promoter of the Brainerd Lakes Chapter of Sweet Adelines. As city editor I often worked with her, arranging news photos that would help promote Sweet Adelines' concerts and fundraisers.

I was always interested in hearing stories about her father, Gov. Floyd B. Olson, who was one of Minnesota's most popular governors. State Highway 55 in the Twin Cities is named the Floyd B. Olson Memorial  Highway.

One day she told me that an author had recently written a book about her father in which the writer contended that the governor had a fondness for the bottle. This book was written some 50 years after Olson's death, but the criticism she read about her late father still stung. She said that even with the passage of time, it was still her dad the author was writing about and the words still hurt. That amazed me that decades after her father's death a casual reference by an author could have that much impact on her.

Newspaper reporters can't help but occasionally write stories that hurt people. Sometimes our stories dredge up painful memories. Sometimes they bring to light unflattering revelations about an individual. And in a small town we occasionally hurt people we know. This is part of our job and we accept that burden as we type our byline at the top of the story. However, the power of the words shouldn't be treated casually. It's important that we pause and consider the effects of our words and our stories. The words we write in the rush of everyday journalism often have repercussions that go far beyond what we might imagine.