Mehlville and Oakville are losing a terrific news professional from our community in order to help open a new round of Patch sites in Chicago.
The first time I met Sarah, she was at a school board forum when we were trying to run Proposition C for the Mehlville School District. She seemed nervous, but capable. That version of Sarah is long gone. She certainly proved herself capable, but if there is anything "nervous" about her, you wouldn't know it now.
Soon thereafter I was freelancing as a paid writer for Patch. It was a lot of fun for a bit, but it wasn't long before she asked, "Can that be the last story about the brain?" It was irritating, funny, and it was true. I'm not a journalist and my job was to try and find stories that could relate to Mehlville specifically, especially from an educator's or parent's perspecitive. I'm just not that focused, so I stopped writing for awhile.
A few months later, Patch started looking for bloggers that could blog about any topic they wanted and as often as they wanted. Now that was right up my alley.
However, (and it turns out furtunately) Sarah still had integrity standards. So, "whatever you wanted" had limits - similar to yelling, "Fire" in a crowded movie theatre.
She wasn't shy about letting me know when she refused to publish something. "Absolutely not. You are not using Patch for personal attacks, especially when you say things that I know are likely untrue. Besides, you're better than that and it makes what you say less effective."
Keep in mind, Sarah, at the time, was only 24 years old; yet, she has a level of maturity and professionalism in her job as an editor that makes me believe she is going far in this business.
I'm not going to say it wasn't a little irritating at times, because it was - but she was right. Going back and reading some of the things I tried to submit, were just childish, and it wasn't rare that she would agree to publish something but made sure that I knew that she, "hated it." If memory serves me correctly, one such example was this article about that psychopath from Columbia that killed his family. And, reading it again, I don't think it was childish at all, and represents my feelings on the matter perfectly. The point being, she knows what works and what doesn't. What definitely should or shouldn't be published and if she hates it anyway, she'll let you know.
Sarah Flagg didn't participate in the news she covered and/or allowed to be published, she just covered it. That approach to news is a refreshing testimony considering the state of other corporate news sources, both liberal and conservative - as well as the ones that try to be so balanced that you don't really get any news, just equal press releases from both sides.
The thing about bias in the news is not that you don't provide equal coverage to both sides, but whether or not you decide to cover a particular story in the first place.
Bias isn't in telling one side of a story, bias is telling a particular story at all. In my experience, the only bias that Sarah Flagg has had was a bias for journalistic integrity and an informed community.
Flagg believes in what she is doing, and I hope she doesn't lose that spirit for Chicago's sake. However, more than that, I hope the next Patch editor can latch on to that spirit of incorruptability and dedication to development of a community through better communication, and a fantastic hyper-local news service.