The mettle of a man (or woman) is not necessarily measured by what wrong they have done, but by what they choose to do moving forward.
This week we have a story in the paper about Pierz Superintendent George Weber. By all accounts he is an upstanding member of our community who made a mistake — one made by many others in our community — whether they were caught or not.
Being a public figure comes with a price. Every decision made by a public figure is scrutinized and if that decision results in an arrest, it becomes a matter of public record and becomes news on a bigger scale than it would be for an average citizen.
Make no mistake, although we report on such matters, no one at the Record delights in the news of an arrest, a criminal charge or a conviction. Many times the rumors have spread in the town where the person lives or works, well before it’s shared in the paper. But we can’t deal in rumor. We get our information from the County Attorney’s Office or the courts. We need the paperwork to prove what we are reporting is accurate.
Charges and convictions are published in the paper every week. Each is dealt with differently, depending on the charge brought forth in the courts.
In the case of felony charges, a small story outlining the reason for the charge found in the criminal complaint is published.
Misdemeanor charges are not printed, unless the individual has been convicted.
A gross misdemeanor charge is listed with the person’s name, age, city of residence, date of the offense and the charge — that is, unless he/she is a public figure.
So, who is a public figure?
They include people elected by voters to represent them, those who are trusted as leaders or educators in our school districts where our children are taught, those accountable to the public or in charge of taxpayer dollars, celebrities and those who are well-known in the community.
When a public figure, especially a well-respected one, makes a mistake, there are those who think it should be kept secret or out of the public eye (which it really never is as the gossip mill churns). Then there are those who feel it’s their sworn duty to spread the gossip whether they have the facts or not.
When we report on a crime, we recount the facts — that’s not necessarily the case on the streets or on social media. It’s easy to sit back, judge and post comments from behind a screen without verifying first.
We feel that the true test of the character of any human being is not whether they ever make a mistake, because everyone falters at some point — it’s what they choose to do after the mistake is made, the courage they show in taking responsibility for their actions, dealing with the consequences and moving forward.
This is not an easy thing to do in the public eye.
And sometimes, just sometimes, the mistake and its fallout can make a person a better human being than they were before.
We hope for that outcome in every case.