The News Editorial: It's all about the why
July 8, 2021
In journalism you are taught to get the who, what, where, when, why and how. With so many avenues to get information in today’s world I began thinking about those questions and a few things recently made me realize that for today’s newspapers, the biggest question we need to answer is why?
At a recent meeting of the Board of Adjustment and Planning Commission, there were several why questions broached. Why was the setback for permanent structures 20 feet? Why was the maximum height of a fence six feet?
Building Official Randy Adams could answer the who (previous board), the when (the 1980s) and most of the questions can be answered by looking at minutes … except the why.
We try to cover as many board meetings in person (or via Zoom now) as we can because of the why? We can get a copy of the minutes that tells us what motions were made by city councils, county commissioners, fair board, school board and others. But to answer the why you have to be there in person to hear the discussion.
I cannot answer why the setbacks are where they are or what is magical about a 6-foot high fence (except somewhere someone said 6 feet because most municipalities have that maximum height). Had I been covering the meeting in which the setbacks were set I could answer the why.
Most minutes cover action by the boards or councils, they do not often cover the why? But everyone wants to know the why or they should.
Think of a young child. What is their favorite question … that’s right it is why? Why is that? Because we all have a curious nature to understand the things around us, why is the sky blue, why is grass green, why is the alphabet in the order it is in, why do I have to brush my teeth, why do I have go to bed early and on and on.
Most of us never lose that curious nature, including BAPC board members who were asking why last month.
With the why answered we would know the importance of the setbacks and the limit on fence height.
When you look at the hundreds of bills approved by the Wyoming Legislature this year, that prompts a lot of whys.
We were able to answer some of those.
When people go and look at the statute on the Slayer Rule, they will see that the Wyoming Legislature approved changes in 2021. It does not state why the change was made in the statute.
You can easily find the why in this newspaper as we chronicled the struggles of Mel and Darr Lea Walker and their hope that new legislation would prevent others from having to go through what they are with Mel’s daughter’s belongings after her death.
With boards, councils and commissions approving new fiscal year budgets, people can see the numbers and how they change, but newspapers answer why they change, why did revenue drop or increase, why are there more expenses in some departments.
This past Sunday we celebrated the 245th anniversary of the writing of the Declaration of Independence. What followed that declaration was the Revolutionary War and eventually our Constitution and our First Amendment granting freedom of speech, press and religion.
Freedom of the press, because our founding fathers understood it was important for journalists to be free to discover and most importantly to report the who, what, where, when, how and especially the why.
It matters what our government does, but it also matters why they do what they do.
Why? Because it holds them accountable and strives to ensure that the government remains (in the words of President Abraham Lincoln) “of the people, by the people, for the people.”
Also, because since the innocence of our youth we have been demanding why.
-- Karla Pomeroy