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Finding way to balance criticism, praise

Look on the Opinion page of any newspaper in America and you will see editors and publishers handing out their fair share of constructive criticism.

Government. Society. Business. No one is excluded — and that is the way it should be.

Newspapers truly should serve as watchdogs in the community, holding all those above mentioned parties accountable for their actions.

But newspapers in general don’t always hand out enough praise when it is due, especially when someone has been previously criticized.

Now is one of those times.

The Tribune recently criticized the Ironton Health Department for what we perceived to be a lack of cooperation in releasing restaurant inspections to the newspaper.

Our contention was that these documents — indisputably public record — should be made easily accessible to the public via the newspaper. After several attempts we had not gotten them.

We made a formal and very public request through an editorial on this page.

After speaking with health commissioner Laura Brown, I am convinced that maybe there was some misunderstanding as to what was being sought, why and whether or not it should be provided and by whom.

Brown was very apologetic that these documents had not been made accessible to the newspaper sooner.

The commissioner ensured me that transparency and public accessibility were very important to the agency. She vowed to correct this problem.

I am happy to say that I have now received the inspection reports for from the past few months. These will be condensed and printed in the newspaper within a few days.

I want to thank Brown for her personal and prompt attention to this and her commitment to making this information public.

The point isn’t to embarrass restaurants or cost them business. The bottom line is that the public has a right to know how the restaurants and food providers stack up so that they can make informed decisions.

It helps reward restaurants that work hard to stay in compliance as well as providing added incentive to those with violations to correct the problems quickly.

The Tribune serves its readers, the men and women of Lawrence County. They are the ones to whom we have an obligation to provide this information in a consistent, readable format.

We’ll keep asking questions when needed but will also try to offer praise when it is deserved.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.