freedom of the press and small town politics


Well, I got a big lesson in small town politics this morning!!!

I am currently working for a small town paper. When I started a year and a half ago and covered my first City Council meeting, I knew this was going to be a difficult group. ....

A representative from a non-profit organization came in and offered to donate funds to do remodelling on a public building. I tried to get comment for my article from a council member and access to the building to take pictures. I was repeatedly told, they are not allowed to do interviews.

Eventually I convinced a council member to talk with me and allow me to take pictures. I explained I was not going to state anything that wasn't decided, but simply write a story saying the council was considering improvements top the building and what areas would be looked at. I said the story is news and would be written either way.

Recently, I began covering a sensitive topic. I gave the council opportunity to provide me with a written statement rather than depend on quotes from the meeting. They ignored me.

It is an understatement to say I softened there sentiments considerably. I taped the meetings so am guaranteed to quote accurately, but omit outrageous statements that could get them in legal trouble - seriously!!!!!

I have wisely saved the tapes from the last few meetings.

This morning my boss informed me one of the council members came in threatening to pull advertising (and maybe even worse) if we continued to print things the Council does not approve of.

He also said I miss quoted him! I told my boss he did indeed say. word for word, what I quoted and told him I have saved the tapes from these meetings if he would like to hear it for himself.

This type of censorship and intimidation is illegal, I'm sure. Still, it is a small town and newspapers pay their bills through ads. It's not just one man's advertising he has friends who advertize etc.

To say the least, I am not happy...... But, I need my job.
Politics is politics regardless of how big or small. Sorry you had to experience this sort of behavior from a person(s) elected to serve the community.

You can quote me: An honest politician going in is corrupt well before leaving. I'm convinced.
Not that it's the same situation but I remember a Roman Polanski's film....

Just make yours' and your kids' a top priority in this situation.
Are city council meetings open to the public?

If only your boss had the fortitude to do an article on this very issue, but unfortunately, principles can sometimes be small comfort when one's livelihood suffers. A newspaper's dillemma is similar to that of a preacher who feels the prompting to deliver a message that is likely to alienate the people whose money and influence help keep the church (small "c") operating.