David Trinko: A statement about not answering questions

David Trinko, The Lima News, Ohio
·3 min read

Apr. 17—There's a disturbing trend popping up locally.

Whenever people have to answer difficult questions of reporters, they don't. They'll send a "statement."

I could identify five times in the past month where one of our journalists asked someone a hard question and got the answer that they'll send in a statement instead. We try to identify these comments in the paper as "said via email" or "said in a press release."

The worst part about it is the statement doesn't usually adequately answer the question at hand. Rather than telling you the source refused to answer the question, we usually end up printing at least portions of what they wrote to us.

I chuckle as I consider how different my home life would be if we allowed statements instead of answers to our questions there.

Last week, we noticed our 7-year-old daughter had a water-based tattoo she'd received for Easter applied to her hand. We asked her who put that on her. Her eyes shifted, trying to come up with a satisfactory answer.

I can just imagine how I'd react if our master note-writer responded in writing, "I value the products delivered to our home by the Easter Bunny. It is a high-quality material, and I'm happy to display how nice it is."

Not satisfying at all, since it doesn't answer the question.

We've been having some problems with our 12-year-old putting her clean clothes away after they've been laundered. When we see them still stacked in her room, we'll ask why they haven't moved.

I would not deal well if she'd offer a press release: "I'm so grateful that my laundry is clean now. There are many people who contributed to making this happen, and I'm thankful to them all."

How frustrating is that non-answer?

Sometimes we gripe about how attentive our 13-year-old is to her younger sisters after school.

I would not be satisfied with an emailed answer like this, "Now is not the time to point fingers. Now is the time to unify our family."

Sometimes we get frustrated with our 19-year-old, who I've sarcastically nicknamed "the worst roommate ever," for not helping around the house, such as emptying the dishwasher.

I'd really be agitated if her response to our queries was, "We really must focus on what I did accomplish today. I attended all of my classes. I'm caught up on my homework. I even got a nap today. Today was a good day."

I understand why people want to send press releases instead of answering questions. Everyone wants to control their own narrative.

But as any parent will tell you, it's a lot better for you to tell the truth right now than come up with a good story and have us figure out later on that you're lying.

David Trinko is managing editor of The Lima News. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at dtrinko@limanews.com or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.