Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I'm happy to answer reader's questions

I received the following query today regarding my Council column in the new issue of Community Free Press:

"Mrs. Melton:

I noticed in today's edition of the Community Free Press' "City Council Notes" section you wrote about Interim City Manager Evelyn Honea leading a round of applause for Councilman Gary Deaver for winning the Volunteer of the Year Award from the Springfield Rotary Club. In your piece, you wrote about Mayor Carlson taking issue with outbursts from those in attendance without mentioning at all the times other people from the community have been saluted and applauded such as city staff who have received recognition and at the most recent meeting a Boy Scout who was in attendance.

I was wondering why you didn't feel it was in the interest of your readers to give them all of the facts."

----end email----

First of all, let me just note that I feel it is in the interest of my readers to have all the facts, I hope in the links and supplemental information I offer and CFP offers they will be able to access "all of the facts." I give readers the facts that I feel are pertinent on any given issue. Truth be known, I am given a word count of 550 words for my "Council Notes" column, which appears in every issue of the Community Free Press.

At issue, in my mind, in the column cited by the writer of the email above, was not whether it was Deaver as opposed to a boy scout or another member of City staff who received applause, it was, rather, an issue of whether the rules of decorum are equally observed. It is a fact that:

"On several occasions in the recent past, Mayor Carlson has demanded the public observe strict rules of decorum in Council chambers, even threatening their removal from the chambers if they are not observed."

It is up to the reader to decide whether it should be an issue as to whether the City staff and Council observe the same rules of decorum they demand of the public who attend the Council meetings. It is of no consequence whether it is Mayor Pro Tem Deaver who is receiving the applause or a boy scout, it just so happens that in this instance it was Mayor Pro Tem Deaver who received the applause.

This column was turned in before a boy scout was applauded at the City Council meeting of July 14, again, the applause, in this case, was not challenged by anyone on the Council. It so happens, that at the moment that applause took place Mayor Carlson was not in attendance, as he arrived late to the meeting this past Monday night.

My column could have just as easily cited applause for a boy scout as applause for Mayor Pro Tem Deaver, had it been a boy scout who was applauded at the June 30 Council meeting, which is the meeting this column covered.

As far as including "all the facts," ask any reporter if they are able to include every fact of every issue they cover. I recently mentioned Wes Johnson of the News-Leader not including information about a resolution here, not to disrespect or question Mr. Johnson, who I happen to have a great deal of respect for, but because I thought it was worth noting.

Every Council column I write requires I make choices about what I think the public might find important or interesting because I am only allowed a certain amount of space to cover the previous meeting and there is not room to include every issue and every word that is exchanged during any given meeting in the space I am allowed for my column. This issue's column is no different from any other in that regard. For whatever reason, the Community Free Press trusts my judgment on the making of those choices and I am honored that they do so and have given me the opportunity to write a regular column for their paper, for which I have the utmost respect.

I appreciate, also, the writer of the email for being interested in my choices and decisions and appreciate everyone who reads my column, as, I'm sure, does CFP.

I'm always open for suggestion. My email address can be found under my profile and I would also encourage any one who has a question or comment to write a letter to the editor at the Community Free Press.


acline said...

Journalism is a tough job. No matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, no matter what systems you put into place to ensure the public gets the information it needs (presented fairly), someone will (mis)interpret your intentions.

Jackie Melton said...

Thanks, Andy, I know that's true.

Learning to accept that I won't please everyone and there are some people who always suspect foul motives goes with the territory.

It does get easier, though. That's a good thing.

There's room for people to disagree with my choices. I can live with that.

Jim said...

What's sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander.

Busplunge said...

Jackehammer--- You bring up a really valid point here. Some people just don't get it that rules and laws can not be selectively enforced. When that happens, the enforcer becomes the judge, jury and executioner.

I dread the arrival of the rule that says "anything can be done to you that you can not prevent".

Mmm, that's some catch, that Catch-22.

Stu Solomon said...

If there is a time set aside (prior to convening the actual meeting) for recognition of personal achievement outside the realm of city council business, that's fine. If the meeting is actually convened and attendance has been called, that's another matter.

Generally, these meetings are governed by an agenda or itinerary calling for these types of recognition. If that's the case, perhaps it should have been mentioned.

At any rate, the personal attack levelled at you is unwarranted and the aspersions made against your professionalism and ethics are certainly out of line.

Anonymous said...

I would suppose the Mayor has some difficulty at times just trying to keep Ralph Manley from
jumping up and down at Council meetings when he gets excited about whatever new multi-million dollar, future tax burden project they are about to approve.

tom said...


You've been at this long enough to realize that even though you have all the FACTS of an event listed, if those FACTS don't line up with the readers preconceived idea of what the truth might be then you will be wrong.
I hope you get the opportunity in the CFP to tell this individual that they clearly have never read the city council charter and had they done so they would see the FACTS shown to them

The Libertarian Guy said...

Keep stirrin' the puddin'. :)