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In response
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Please read the letter to this newspaper on page 5A from several Bryan County commissioners, who chastise this newspaper up one side and down the other for, among other things, failing to mention a major step in the Henderson Park project in a story in last week’s paper.

For what it’s worth, we agree the topic is newsworthy and, it along with other actions taken by the commission, should have been reported.

However, they weren’t.

That’s an issue, along with others, we will deal with in house. And we sincerely thank the commissioners for taking the time to so eloquently point out our shortcomings.

However, we also feel it’s important to note the Henderson Park project was covered at some length not very long ago.

Similarly, the court house annex story also has received coverage in our paper in recent months. And both those issues and others will receive plenty of coverage in the future, we can assure both the commissioners and our readers.

Now, while we agree with some of what has been asserted in this letter, we have a hard time understanding other portions of it -- including why they don’t feel the public comment in question is "front page news," as they put it.

It seems to us that even if those who addressed the commission at the recent meeting do, in the letter’s words, "dislike some of the decisions of the County Commission, and in particular dislike their 4th District Commissioner," their concerns are just as valid as anyone else’s.

They pay taxes. They own property. They vote. They reside in Bryan County. The bottom line is their like or dislike of what the county commission is doing has no bearing on their newsworthiness.

As for the charge of sensationalism, we flatly deny that. There was no attempt to sensationalize anything, though if commissioners choose to believe that then there’s nothing we can do about it.

Indeed, while we certainly hope to enjoy a professional relationship with county commissioners and all those charged with representing the public interest, our job is to cover this community as best we can with what we have. That means continuing to work hard at improving our coverage of not only the who, what, when and where, but the why.

Indeed, readers and those who follow county politics might be interested to know that plans have been in the works for months to change our beat structure in a way to provide more focused coverage on not only the county commission, but all the agencies who deal most closely with growth issues.

And now that we’re adding staff, those plans are closer than ever to fruition.

We believe it's important because not only do government officials deserve to have their work reported, but the public has a right to know as much as possible about that work -- and the impacts it will have on ordinary residents. We also feel that when residents are upset about the direction this county is taking or the work of their local government, they deserve a voice.

Of course, we will make mistakes from time to time -- but they will always be honest ones we will own up to when they’re pointed out to us. That's why we appreciate the letter from the county commissioners.

Again, we’ll continue to strive to do a better job all the way around. That's something readers, including the county commission, can take to the bank.

Feb. 22, 2007

The Bryan County News

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