Just the facts, please


In their wisdom, our founding fathers gave a long list of particulars to justify their break from Great Britain. “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them ... a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”  

In contrast to our Declaration of Independence, the extraordinary letter of the 8th of March from elected and appointed officials of Delaware County to the publishers of The Reporter doesn’t give a decent respect to our opinions, failing to “let Facts be submitted to a candid world.” It cites no causes that a candid county citizen could consider when judging where the truth lies. We don’t have reach back to 1791 for an example of the basic fairness in providing justifications. An arrest warrant must list the crimes charged. Granted their generalized grievances already run over a page, but appendices could have provided specifics.

I subscribe to The Reporter but don’t recognize it in their description of “a platform to undermine the County.” However, I’m willing to be convinced, show me. Most readers have seen only one side of this, so please show us the alleged fake news: incorrect names or titles; negative reporting; inflammatory manner; editorial remarks; omitted, misrepresented, or flagrantly manipulated facts; and unethical representations.

Newspapers bank on their credibility, which they guard tenaciously. Therefore, inevitable errors should be acknowledged. How often did county officials write to the editor with something specific that needed to be corrected in print?

This murky missive under the letterhead of the Delaware County Board of Supervisors reads like sour grapes. It’s hardly news when officials are unhappy with the press. While in office, politicians at all levels of government complain about how newspapers report on them, although once in retirement some are more circumspect. Unfortunately, asking for writing that is “factual, fair, and ethical” can really mean wanting writing that makes them look good, just the way that a fair election can mean only when they win.

Also unanswered by their letter is why it was sent now. A year ago, our Board of Supervisors pulled county legal notices by replacing as the Republican newspaper of record The Reporter (Serving Delaware County & Surrounding Areas) with The Hancock Herald (All the news in a small town). This is rehashed in the fourth paragraph, so is their letter a belated defense of their punishing the paper? Certainly, they’re punishing the readers who try to keep track of county business.

Delaware County is a municipal corporation with an eight-figure budget and a staff of hundreds, whereas The Reporter is a private corporation with a much smaller budget and several staff. Who needs protection from whom? Congress and the state legislatures knew that a free press is so vital to our country that its defense was codified in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Thomas Jefferson wrote that if he had to choose between “a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”




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