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Patrick Gannon: Always consider the source

RALEIGH — My boss is awesome. He’s a loyal and devoted family man and employee. He edits my stories and columns flawlessly every time.

He can run a 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds and dunk a basketball from the free-throw line.

He’s awesome. But if he wasn’t, who would tell you?

Probably not me. It’s unusual for anyone with a boss to go out of their way to make him or her look bad in public. It’s too easy to leave out details that don’t follow the company line. You might even exaggerate for good measure.

And I don’t get paid to make my boss look good. Imagine if I did.

That’s what communications staffers for Gov. Pat McCrory, Attorney General Roy Cooper and other election candidates and public officials do every day. And they get paid pretty good money to do so. It’s their job.

Noelle Talley makes more than $81,000 as Cooper’s main spokeswoman as attorney general. Josh Ellis makes $106,000 as McCrory’s communications director, according to The News & Observer’s government salary database, which is available online.

They get paid handsomely to make their bosses look good and release information about them that they want the public to know. Campaign spokespeople also get paid in real dollars.

It bothers me to no end when everyday consumers of the news read something that comes out of a government office or a campaign and automatically assume it’s the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

If you keep up with social media, that has happened so many times in the House Bill 2 debate. Supporters of McCrory automatically believe whatever comes out of his press office is 100 percent correct. (“See, the liberal media is all wrong,” they’ll say.) Same goes for supporters of Cooper, McCrory’s opponent in this year’s race for governor.

My point is this: Always consider the source before making blanket determinations about any issue.

Along the same lines, I never understood why so many people voted straight-ticket ballots before that option was eliminated in North Carolina a couple of years ago.

Many people did, and no offense to them. They had — and still have — every right to vote for whomever they want.

But endorsing a candidate because of the “R” or “D” or some other letter next to their name never made sense to me.

I’ve known plenty of qualified, rational and open-minded Rs and Ds in my years covering politics. I’ve also known plenty of unqualified, irrational and closed-minded candidates from both major parties.

It’s important to me to know as much about individual candidates as possible — their personal and business backgrounds, accomplishments, views on issues important to me and the conduct of their campaigns.

For me, the same goes for forming opinions on issues. I always want to hear both sides and read as much as I can from biased and non-biased sources. Often, particularly in state government, neither side is totally right or totally wrong.

Knowledge is key, but always consider the source and the underlying motives. This is an election year after all.

My boss is awesome. (He also approves my time card).

Patrick Gannon is the editor of the Insider State Government News Service in Raleigh. Reach him at pgannon@ncinsider.com.

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