News isn’t always pretty
Last week, I received an email from a gentleman in Green Forest. He explains that he is canceling his subscription to the Carroll County News because he believes it “has lost its focus on real news for the county and its readers.”
He goes on to refer to our recent coverage of an incident involving Carroll County Sheriff Randy Mayfield and District 3 Justice of the Peace Lamont Richie. Mayfield used a homophobic slur to describe Richie during a meeting with two employees of the sheriff’s office. Word got back to Richie, who raised the issue during a public meeting of the Carroll County Quorum Court — the county’s governing body. Mayfield denied the accusation, right until this newspaper obtained evidence that it was in fact true. At that point, he admitted it and apologized.
Last week’s email says we “should not even think about reporting this nonsense!”
I understand there may be some readers who share that opinion, and I’d like to share my response:
Thanks very much for taking the time to contact me and share your reasons for canceling your subscription. While I’m disappointed that you chose to do so, I understand and respect your prerogative.
I would like to address a couple of points.
First, the situation involving the two elected officials is an ugly episode. There’s no doubt about that. But the fact of the matter is that a newspaper’s function is to cover the news. This situation was brought to light during a public meeting and it involves two elected officials who have been chosen by the citizens to hold positions of trust and power. The citizens of Carroll County have a right to know what their elected officials are doing, and it’s our job as a newspaper to report on those doings as accurately and comprehensively as possible. In short, I can defend our decision to report on that story much more easily than I would be able to defend any decision to ignore it.
I am fond of saying that a newspaper is a reflection of the community it serves. I think that’s certainly true in our case. While there are times when we have an obligation to report stories that aren’t pretty, I would say that the vast majority of what appears in the newspaper is what most folks would refer to as “positive” news. One of our primary focuses is coverage of education and school events. That is a conscious decision that I made when I came here a little more than four years ago, and I believe we have done a superb job of carrying out that focus.
I would point out that our newspaper has been honored with first-place awards for general excellence from the state press association for the past two years. That’s an achievement we are very proud of, and we believe it reflects our commitment to the residents of Carroll County and most importantly, the folks who depend on us to keep them informed.
The simple fact is that not everything that happens in a community — any community — is pretty. And if we base our decisions as a newspaper on whether a story is “positive” or “negative,” we would very quickly lose our credibility as a news source. Our job is to cover the news, not filter it or ignore it.
I understand and respect your position. I hope you can understand mine.
Please feel free to contact me at any time. I wish you all the best.
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Scott Loftis is managing editor for Carroll County Newspapers. His email address is CarrollCountyNews@cox-internet.com.