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Scott Loftis

From the Editor

Scott Loftis is managing editor for Carroll County Newspapers. His email address is CarrollCountyNews@cox-internet.com

Opinion

This isn’t the first time

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

I was reminded earlier this week about something that happened during my tenure as managing editor of the daily newspaper in Pine Bluff. I happened to run into that city’s mayor at a convenience store, and he did not speak to me.

That wasn’t really surprising; he hadn’t been taking my phone calls for several months at that point, after I called him to discuss his habit of trying to embarrass the talented and hardworking, but young and sometimes meek, reporter I had assigned to cover City Hall. Our conversation essentially ended when he told me to call him if I had a problem with him and I responded “I’m on the phone right now.”

He’d had his nose out of joint for a while after we reported that he had instructed a city mechanic, on city time, to change the oil in his personal vehicle. An attorney friend of his responded by writing a letter to the editor critical of our coverage. His critique included the remark: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” To which I responded in print: “No, but there is a free oil change, if you’re an elected official with a complete lack of ethics or an ounce of political common sense.”

I’m reminded of all this today because of a comment that a local official made to a member of our editorial staff who was asking questions about public business — or at least business that ought to be public.

“Y’all haven’t been too nice to (the subject of the question),” this official said.

To which our reporter replied: “It’s not my job to be nice. It’s my job to get to the truth.”

Gold star to that reporter.

Our responsibility is to tell the citizens of Carroll County what’s going on in their communities. A major part of that responsibility is keeping those same citizens informed about what’s happening within their government — whether that be at the city or county level.

Sometimes, local government officials would prefer not to discuss certain issues in public despite the fact that the public has a right to know. When that happens, it’s our job to ask questions that might not make us very popular. It’s our job, in fact, to use every legal means necessary to obtain public information. If that means filing a Freedom of Information Act request for the mayor’s email, then that’s what we’ll do. If it means asking the mayor questions that he clearly doesn’t want to answer, then that’s what we’ll do.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to make sure that this newspaper reports the news aggressively, objectively and accurately.

That’s what we’ve done for more than seven years, and that’s what we’ll continue to do. No matter who doesn’t like it.