The newspaper editor is the most powerful person in the county. He determines what makes the news and what does not; he decides what is urgent / breaking news; he directs public discourse toward this and away from that; he can discourage citizens who fear him from participating in civic life or running for office.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Back in July, the following occurred at our Anderson County school board meeting. I wrote about it for the Herald-Leader, but here is a small portion of what happened:
A man stood up and said, “Critical race theory is nothing more than Marxism. I think it’s equity, inclusion, and diversity is what they’re calling it now, so people look up and they’re like ‘critical race theory’ is not in there. It’s remade, it’s repackaged, but it’s the same old crap.”
As the CRT conspiracy theory portion of this meeting came to a close, our school board’s vice chair added, “I would just like to say that I would like to see patriotic education taught.”
The room exploded with applause.
It should be noted that school boards around the country are already banning books. One school board recently banned Toni Morrison’s BELOVED.
This week a Tennessee school board voted to ban Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize winning, graphic novel which depicts the Holocaust in a story told to the author by his father. MAUS is, by all accounts, a literary masterpiece. The school board banned this book with a vote of 10 – 0.
The editor of The Anderson News has repeatedly used his opinion column to relay his personal views about CRT. As the basis for his column this week, our newspaper editor wrote:
You can not, in good faith, dismiss “social media diatribes” as things that “make me laugh” and insist you have “better ways to spend my time,” and then write an entire column responding to those diatribes. How can a subject be both unworthy and require a lengthy response from an editor/publisher?
Most concerning is that the editor uses an anonymous emailer as someone to respond to. This is not journalism. Newspapers do not, for good reason, publish anonymous Letters to the Editor. If a citizen has something to say in the public sphere, he/she is required to provide a name and contact information. Their letter, along with their real name, is published.
How does the editor/publisher justify using an anonymous letter as the basis to publish his personal views?
If the written exchange was worthy of the editor’s published response, the letter itself should have been published.
Later in the same column, the editor adds:
Is social media just citizens — aka people who do not have singular access to the powerful platform of their own newspaper — having a “hissy fit?” Does the editor himself not have a Facebook account, not personally use social media?
The Anderson News editor has time to write about the same subjects (like CRT) repeatedly but, inexplicably, seems to have no time to answer any of the questions which have been asked, and asked again, which are in the public interest. To wit:
Why did the editor block teachers and others from commenting on the newspaper’s Facebook page while there are often folks who post angry, inflammatory comments that are never removed?
The editor has used the phrase “local Squad and its acolytes” in his person column. Who comprises said Squad? What are their names? Are they specifically Hispanic women? Women of color? All women? All Democrats? Liberals in general? The editor needs to clarify.
Why has the editor never listed Covid-19 as the cause of any of the 59 deaths in Anderson County? Has he ever contacted any family members to ask if they would like to speak, on the record, to encourage others to be vaccinated?
Regarding masks, why did the editor choose to present exclusively the perspective of an occupational therapist but nothing from a local woman doctor board certified in public health and emergency medicine?
How does a journalist — the editor/publisher of a newspaper — make this derogatory comment about a woman doctor he has not even spoken to?
And then there is this very long list relative to the County Attorney — an office which will be contested in a primary election in less than 4 months — which have gone unanswered.
The CA stated, “During that transition period we simply had to make due [sic] and we did the best that we could.” Why did he decide not to hire, even if for a transition period only, any of the the 3 women who had working knowledge of the office?
The editor has written extensively about last year’s alleged “difficult” transition in the County Attorney’s office, but has yet to offer proof. Why has the editor never contacted the former CA to ask for documents — documents which I easily obtained with one phone call — to check the accuracy of these “difficult transition” allegations?
The current CA has yet to provide his platform to the public. As I recall, his primary focus in the special election was the Second Amendment, but gun rights do not fall within the purview of the county attorney. What is the CA’s platform within the scope of the office he currently holds and is running for again in the May primary?
In December, the following statements were made in The Anderson News by the CA. Why were no basic follow-up questions asked by the editor of the newspaper?
“When [Gov.] Beshear closed small businesses in March 2020, I noticed a few local politicians preach that ‘we are in this together,’ yet I observed good people struggling while these same politicians continued to draw their checks, completely unaffected,” and “I am sorry, but we are not all in this together and these politicians with gifted positions should do more.”
POSSIBLE FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS:
What are the names of the “local politicians?”
Why do you believe they did not need a paycheck?
How do you know they were “completely unaffected?” Do you know them personally? Give me an example.
What do you mean by “politicians with gifted positions?”
You said they should do more. Who are “they” and how do you know what they are doing/giving?
“My business got shut down … literally,” he said. “I was told to shut the doors, send people home and go file for unemployment.”
You were not running a public-facing business. Why would your business get shut down?
You say you were told to shut the doors, send people home and go file for unemployment. Who told you this?
“Some people were still drawing paychecks and it wasn’t having any impact on them?”
You said “some people.” Are you referring to the female county attorney at the time?
Are you suggesting she should have voluntarily asked to stop receiving a paycheck?
How do you personally know the pandemic “wasn’t having any impact on” her?
“I had three months of zero income …”
You were an attorney in private practice. People had a continuing, ongoing need for legal representation during the pandemic. Why did you choose to cease doing business, taking “zero income?”
It should be noted that 100% of the responsibility here lies with the newspaper editor. Any journalist, and certainly the editor of a newspaper, would have asked these questions. An interviewee is not responsible for answering questions he is not asked.
Why did the editor not ask a single, obvious, follow-up question?