The price of integrity: A childhood lesson newly learned

Wrangler News editor Joyce Coronel
Wrangler News editor Joyce Coronel

By Joyce Coronel

“We’re going to have to cut about 300 words from your story,” the middle-aged editor told me with a slight frown. As an eager young reporter, I’d labored and toiled to compose a complex article for a local newspaper, agonizing over every word and punctuation mark.

“But why? That’s a big chunk of my work!” I asked, trying not to whine.

“We need to get an ad on that page,” he told me with a matter-of-fact tone.

Fast forward a few years and now I’m the one making such businesslike decisions. Advertising, I learned on that day with my editor of long ago, is the lifeblood of publications. Without it, we couldn’t pay our writers, our photographers or our rent. We wouldn’t be able to afford our printing or distribution costs or the money we pay every so often to our lifesaver of a tech-savvy guy, Matt.

Not only that, but you wouldn’t be reading this commentary because Wrangler News simply would not exist. (Perish the thought…) And while advertising revenue helps keep us in business, it doesn’t define our values, dictate our ethics or dominate our list of priorities.

As longtime writers, editors and newspaper people, our Wrangler News owner Don Kirkland and I have ink in our veins. We’re devoted to bringing our readers local news with flair and good humor. We love what we do and are not among the many unfortunate souls who despise their work and count down the days to the weekend—or, perhaps even better, retirement. We feel called to our vocation as communicators and will never compromise our values for the sake of revenue.

This summer, we were faced with a choice to publish an ad we felt violated our principles. The prospective client was willing to pay generously, so sticking with our values loomed as a costly decision. Unless you’re in the ice cream business, the hotter months in our area are generally hard on business, with many suffering loss of revenue.

No, we don’t sell ice cream here at Wrangler News (though we do endeavor to have, forgive me, delicious stories in every issue) so we did have a bit of a dip in sales over the summer months. The significant money we were offered by the potential advertising client would have ameliorated that situation.

Nevertheless, we truly believe that abiding by our principles of community mindedness is our way of demonstrating to you, our readers, that we cannot be bought. We remain committed to publishing family- friendly stories about our area’s residents, businesses, schools and churches and doing so with integrity.

That’s a word we don’t seem to hear much anymore. How unfortunate.

However, I still remember the day I learned what the word meant, and it still has the same influence on me— perhaps even more—than it did then.

I was 11 years old and sitting at the table with my parents and siblings as we had dinner and dissected the day’s events. We had our mother and father’s undivided attention and if the phone rang, we weren’t allowed to answer it. This was sacred family time, not to be interrupted, as we kids asked questions and talked about what happened at school that day.

“What does the word integrity mean?” I asked my mom that particular evening. She chewed carefully and then set down her fork.

“See that man sitting there, your father?” she queried, indicating my soft-spoken dad, an advertising executive, as fate would have it. “That’s integrity.”

And I knew exactly what she meant. If Dad said something, it was true. He would never act dishonorably or tolerate anything unsavory or underhanded. Since that day, I’ve endeavored to live up to that and instill that value in my own children. My father never would have had to stop and think about publishing an ad that promoted anything ignoble. He was a man of principle who refused to compromise his values, even if it cost him.

So here’s to you, Dad. And to you, our readers. We appreciate the trust you have placed in us to bring you stories that matter about people you care about, right here in your neighborhood.

We hope you’ll continue to help us do that by telling those around you that Wrangler News is a great way to connect with our community.

Integrity: It can’t be bought or sold. It’s what we hope defines us.

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