The mayor makes some serious charges against the newspaper in his statement, which he previously released on social media without talking to me, the publisher. I would like to respond.
First, it should be pointed out that the mayor was not in attendance at the meeting of the Library board, where my reporter took meticulous notes.
Yet he is quick to not only make a charge of “glaring errors in fact”, but he also called my reporter into his office, where she was “questioned” directly by him and two of his staff members behind closed doors.
To put it bluntly, the newspaper will not be intimidated by such tactics.
This does not mean, however, that the newspaper will not reflect on its coverage. We do that regularly, because it is vital to us that we report the issues of our community fairly and accurately.
In this case, I stand fully behind the story.
Left out of the mayor’s statement is the fact that the story in its opening sentence makes clear that the library board met to discuss, not past budgets, but “the library’s proposed 2018/19 fiscal year budget.” In its third paragraph, the story reports that “the special meeting was called after hearing from City Hall the library would lose $72,000 out of requested funds”.
The context of the story is that all who were in attendance at the meeting, including and especially the mayor’s representatives, spoke about “cuts” to the proposed budget.
If, after the fact, the mayor would like to put the meeting’s focus on something else, the mayor may try to do so, but it would not be accurate to the facts of the meeting.
It’s a shame that the mayor wants to “shoot the messenger,” because he has a fair point to make. Budget cuts should be viewed not merely in terms of cuts to requested spending, but in context with past budgets.
Such a discussion, however, was not part of the meeting.
As reported in the story, the Mountain Home News did put in a records request for the proposed budgets submitted by each of the city departments, which will allow more context about current budget deliberations, but it did not receive them by press time.
We are still waiting.
Meanwhile, I’d like to talk about my reporter, who covered the meeting. Up until this reporting, my reporter received nothing but praise from the mayor himself publicly on record and addressed to me as well.
This has been the case from other city and county entities on her integrity, fairness and ability to share and articulate complicated issues.
I myself am very proud of her confidence and fairness as a staff reporter.
If I have learned anything in my 27 years at this community paper, though, it is that we cannot make everyone happy all the time. My reporter is also learning this lesson quickly.
Finally, I encourage all citizens and interested parties to attend public meetings -- whether of City Hall, the library board or other entities -- as there is nothing better than an informed public.
However, if you cannot attend yourself, I appreciate your confidence in allowing the Mountain Homes News to be your eyes and ears.
We take that responsibility seriously.
— Brenda M. Fincher
Publisher of the Mountain Home News