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Those Darn Editorials

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August 26, 2011 by wcobserver

Every week about 7000 eyeballs roll across the pages of this little rag-tag rag in search of something. We ask, and the answers indicate that reader satisfaction is based on what interests them. They all must like something about the Observer or they wouldn’t subscribe or drop fifty cents into the vending box and spend the time reading it.

Some go straight for the police report, others have a favorite columnist, and still others favor the feature story or sports and school news. One gentleman told us he likes the recipes and suggested we make them index card size for easier collecting. Many tell us they read it cover to cover.

And then there are those who enjoy the Opinion Page. And there are, of course, those who seem to enjoy hating the Opinion Page. Opinions do that to people.

So it was with our Aug. 4 editorial which inspired two readers to sit down at the keyboard and express their own opinions in a Letter to the Editor. The general tone of both letters implied that the Observer has a negative impact on community life and that our weekly page four jaw flapping was somehow responsible for what ails south Washington County.

We’re flattered that someone considers us so influential but respectfully disagree with their assessment of our content.

“Almost weekly fault finding articles,” “[not] serving our citizens in a positive manner, “ “another derogatory editorial,” “constant downgrading …nothing to encourage or uplift the community,” the letter writers offered.

We basically present four types of writing in the paper; columns, features, news/sports/ information and opinion. Plus there are advertisements by some of the area’s best businesses, and we provide home delivery. All this is capped off with great photos. We think this is a bargain at 50 cents.

Our contributing writers provide an informative, entertaining personal take on a variety of topics including fishing, book reviews, folk center and state park activities, religion, pet care, humor, guns, computers, reflections, personal finance, bird watching, neighborhood commentary and gardening.

We also have regular columns written by the West Fork band director and the West Fork and Greenland school superintendents. None of the columns are overtly political and could hardly be accused of “fault finding.”

Each issue of the Observer has a front page feature story which spotlights in a positive, uplifting way some person, place or thing in our readership area. A variety of staff and freelance writers contribute the feature articles.

Then there are the news, sports and information articles which are researched, fact checked, enlightening and interesting. We contract with a professional sports writer who covers games in both West Fork and Greenland. We provide our readers with police and court reports (even when they mention West Fork city officials) as well as public notices regarding permits and licenses issued and divorces filed. We print obituaries, weddings and anniversary announcements and public service announcements in the “Briefly” and “Save the Date” sections.

We provide readers with accurate, clearly written report s of monthly city council meetings in Greenland, West Fork and Winslow as well as planning commission meetings in Greenland and West Fork. Additionally there are summaries of parks and water commissions, and library and recycle board meetings in West Fork. We report on the monthly meetings of the Greenland and West Fork school boards, and the Washington County Quorum Court.

The “weekly fault finding articles” Mr. Schultz is referring to are probably located on the opinion page. Think of it as the “Big Table” down at the coffee shop which serves as an outlet for the town’s complainers.

The Editorials on the Opinion Page in the Observer are a burr under the saddle some town folks, not because they rant for or against “obamacare,” or “big gubmit,” but because the Observer keeps its editorial comments local and simple; city hall should operate in the open, always. Each and every elected or appointed city official, employee and volunteer should be accountable for their actions (including the utilities superintendant /former city business manager, and the city treasurer/acting city clerk/water department office manager). And last but not least, the Observer advocates that every governmental body at any level including city hall recognizes the Rule of Law as the basis for democratic governance.

Ms. Henington wrote, “Everyone needs to follow guidelines and procedures that are in place and update any that are antiquated.” We couldn’t agree more. The problem is that not one single department head or commission chair has presented a complete policy and procedure manual to the mayor/council which she requested upon taking office. Fear of lawsuits? That’s a reasonable concern for firemen, police officers, city employees or volunteers working without clear guidelines from the City.

We assume Mr. Schultz’s comment “[that] legal action by you against our city which required our city to expend needed funds to defend against your action” is referring to a formal complaint filed by the Observer and several other citizens with the county prosecutor pointing to violations of the Freedom of Information Act. We are proud of that action. It is the job of this and any respectable newspaper to keep the sunshine flowing into city hall.

On a positive note, since that complaint, West Fork has complied with FOIA rules regarding meeting notification. Is it positive and uplifting to say that our town leaders, to our knowledge, no longer hold unannounced meetings?

Since this is, after all, the opinion page we opine that the four council members, Charlie Rossetti, Joan Wright, Julie Shafer, and Rodney Drymon who voted against doing business with the Observer did so, not because of circulation numbers but because they disapprove of our political stance which we cannot say any more simply, just louder: TRANSPARENCY… ACCOUNTABILITY… THE RULE OF LAW IN GOVERNMENT.

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