In this era of the often used term “Fake News” it has become convenient for politicians to demonize the press and refuse to talk about tough issues. It seems as though local politicians are taking a cue from the same media play book and are finding it convenient to bypass issues that they do not want to discuss.
The animosity between politicians and the press is as old as our Republic. From 1798 until 1801 the Alien and Sedition Acts made it a crime to criticize the sitting government of the United States. As our nation developed and grew into our freedoms, it was recognized that the press – in all its various forms – was an important part of keeping the citizenry informed. Today, the idea of a free and independent press is something that is cherished by freedom-loving people worldwide.
That is not to say that the ” free press” is free of bias. In the early days of our nation, almost all newspapers were hyper-partisan in their formation and their reporting. The Federalist and the Jeffersonian supporters each had their own newspapers to rally the party base. (Think Fox News and MSNBC today). Vile and often unreliable reporting to make the other side look bad were common place. It would be foolish to say that the press in America is completely unbiased as it is evident in reporting from both the left and the right side of the political spectrum. So partisan press is nothing new, but by and large the press is interested in uncovering the truth.
The “press” has evolved in the way information is delivered to the citizenry as well. From newspapers to radio and later television – and now the internet – the press is multifaceted in modern America and around the world.
This past week we reported a story from the Trion Recreation Department about the sudden departure of two long-time employees. Initial reports were that one of the employees was given the chance to retire and the other was allowed to resign. Information was published from three of Chattooga County’s news sources – our radio station; the local newspaper and a popular online news site. In their initial report, The Summerville News (See article in The Summerville News here) wrote, “The mayor said the retirement and resignation happened after a town policy violation. The mayor would not give details of that alleged violation. Stansell described the resignation and retirement as being the toughest situation he had been involved with as mayor.” All on Georgia – Chattooga (See All on Georgia report here) reported “Mayor Larry Stansell stated that he will provide further details next week.”
This week Mayor Stansell told the newspaper that he will not discuss the issue anymore and says that radio reports about the incident were “false.” The mayor spoke face to face with us on Saturday of last week and said that more information would be released on Tuesday. On Sunday of this week, at the mayor’s request, we reported that Mayor Stansell disagreed with initial reports. Tuesday we called and left messages for the mayor, but our calls were not returned. Now the mayor wants to pronounce the issue as closed.
Mayor Stansell doesn’t have to talk to us. He doesn’t have to talk to The Summerville News or All on Georgia or The Chattanooga Times-Free Press, or any other news source if he wishes. However, he does have to answer to the citizens of Trion.
No one can force the President, a state senator, a county commissioner – or a mayor – to talk to the press. However, one group that cannot be ignored is the voters that care to come out and vote.