Recently it was called to my attention there is a letter that a City Council candidate has written to which he did not wish to sign his own name. In his words, "...since I'm a ca(n)didate I believe it is wrong for me to have my name on it."
The candidate, Tom Martz, has a record of being very outspoken and active regarding city issues in Springfield and has, on more than one occasion, spoken before the City Council in City Council chambers. I applaud him for taking such an interest and being so active in local politics, just as I applaud any resident of Springfield who takes an active role in their own governance and in issues that impact their lives and the lives of their neighbors.
In fact, Mr. Martz became the acting Chief Petitioner on behalf of the petitioners requesting a State audit of the City of Springfield. Councilman Doug Burlison had been the Chief Petitioner but, after his election to the City Council in April 2007, it was my understanding that Mr. Burlison felt continuing to be the Chief Petitioner would be a conflict of interest or, could be perceived as such.
Because Mr. Martz is active in City government politics and is a candidate for City Council he's definitely on my radar screen, as are all City Council candidates and, quite often, those who speak at any given City Council meeting. I've sat with a number of them, interviewed a number of them by phone and have steady contact with more than one involved citizen. As a journalist, reporting on city matters, I view it as a part of my job to do so.
But, back to the topic at hand, through more than one venue, I received a copy of an email Mr. Martz sent to a google group he established for discussion among members of the Missouri Liberty Coalition. In that email, Mr. Martz wrote:
"I have a letter which I have transposed which I would like to see in the CFP (Community Free Press) and the S~N~L (Springfield News-Leader) only not with my name attached to it. Anyone who might be interested in submitting this letter send me a private e~mail and I'll send you a private copy for your review. Should after reading it you chose not to use it just let me know , no hard feelings either way. I believe what I had to say in this letter is something that the voters should know before voting, since I'm a cadidate I believe it is wrong for me to have my name on it. I don't want someone trying to promote it as an attack piece when all I have done is point out the facts.
A Springfield resident would be much appreciated for this instead of someone who does not lkive here"
It is up to the reader to decide whether it is ethical for Mr. Martz to write a letter he is unwilling to attach his signature to and appeal for a volunteer to affix their name in his stead. However, such a letter, if it is known to a newspaper would not, likely, be considered for publication.
Mr. Martz, later, indicated someone had agreed to affix their name to the letter for submission and the person who would submit it is not a member of the Missouri Liberty Coalition but, that was not before my husband, a member of that group, volunteered, unbeknownst to me, to affix his name to the letter. He tells me he had not, and has not ever, seen the letter Mr. Martz referred to.
For the record, I have not seen the letter Martz wrote about.
The private discussions on this topic that have naturally transpired between my husband and myself are not something in which I feel the public has a right to be included. However, the role my husband played must be addressed.
In an email response to Mr. Martz through the Missouri Liberty Coalition google group, Mr. Melton offered to send the letter to the publisher of the Community Free Press. He then wrote:
"I can have Jackie suggest that someone at the paper take a long look at it and put it in the CFP but they don't all ways put every thing in print. Some stuff goes on the web site as well."
I did not know that Mr. Melton was writing such an email until after he had done so and I am appalled that my husband involved himself in such a way and made a suggestion that I would be involved in the process of such a letter being either submitted or promote its publication in the Community Free Press. When it was called to my attention, naturally, I was very upset at the implication that I would play a role in its publication.
The fact of the matter is, I am a freelance contributor for the Community Free Press. It has been a priviledge I have enjoyed for two years now and I, certainly, submit more today than I did when I began 2 years ago, with my first "test" article in January of 2007, thank heavens, I think I have grown as a writer since then!
Letters to the editor at the Community Free Press can be submitted to the Community Free Press through email, through fax or via snail mail. Working as a freelance contributor I am not privy to those letters prior to their publication. I play no role in the paper's choice of which letters to include or not to include in any edition of the paper. That is not to say that I have not encouraged many people who have a myriad of thoughts and opinions on a myriad of topics to submit letters to the editor. Most recently in this entry, when I encouraged readers to submit letters to the editor wishing outgoing Managing Editor Mert Seaton well and letting him know, through the paper, he would be missed.
Mr. Melton, I believe, is proud of his wife and has on occasion implied I have greater powers of persuasion at the CFP than I actually have. I think it's a man thing. ;)
At any rate, my husband is an adult and he fancies himself a bit of a political activist however, his key interest is the FairTax issue. He's been promoting it around the area for years. It's as much his right to have an opinion as anyone. While I like his opinion of the FairTax, we disagree on many issues and get in many heated discussions about politics, social issues, etc., in our own home but, just as I make every effort in my reporting at CFP not to involve my own opinions in my reporting there, I do not involve Mr. Melton's opinions in my writing for the Community Free Press either.
I learned a lot from outgoing Managing Editor Mert Seaton and I owe him a lot. One of the first lessons he taught me when reporting for CFP is that, and I paraphrase, people don't care what you think. That is a steady refrain I keep in my mind as I go about my work for the paper. You see, I want the facts as much as anyone. I ask a lot of questions and try to keep my mouth shut as much as possible. Some people have more mouth than ears, I'd like to think I have more ears than mouth when it comes to reporting at the Community Free Press. Certainly, I have the blog here, unrelated to the paper, in which I can give my weighed opinion on things but, as my disclaimer says, "Jackie Melton writes a regular column for the Community Free Press. Her opinions are not the opinions of the Community Free Press and this blog is in no way associated with the Community Free Press."
Just as any other reporter, or freelance contributor, I wear many hats. I'm a Christian, a wife, a freelance journalist, an AWANA Spark's Club director, a sister, a step-mom, a blogger, and even a friend to a few people. Sometimes those roles bump into each other in inconvenient ways and it takes due diligence to keep them separate but, giving myself the credit I feel I am due and deserve, I think I do a very fine job of keeping them separate and will continue to try to excel no matter which hat I happen to be wearing the next time you see me.