OPINION: Mountain Mail’s Alarming Definition of “Personal Attack”
By Cynda Green
Author’s note: On March 22, 2017 I emailed Mountain Mail owner and editor Merle Baranczyk the below information. I never received a response.
The Mountain Mail newsroom has a new definition of “personal attack”, and used that new definition to reject my letter.
I submitted a letter to editor on March 13, 2017. The topic was the Mail’s non-retraction of a front page story by Jan Wondra, featuring Cheryl Brown-Kovacik, titled, “Council may have not received document from attorney.” In this article, CBK accuses the mayor of withholding a document. That same day I provided proof to the Mountain Mail that CBK did indeed receive the document the same day the mayor received it. I sent the proof to Mail editor Merle Baranczyk, news editor Paul Goetz and reporter Jan Wondra. I requested an immediate retraction of the story. There was no retraction. So I wrote my letter.
On March 20, one week after I submitted my letter, I wrote Paul Goetz to ask when my letter would be published. His response:
“Cynda, Your letter is being rejected because it is a personal attack.
I was upset that I had not heard sooner that my letter was rejected, and upset because I did not believe that it was a personal attack. The next day I emailed Paul Goetz:
“Paul, I am curious who the letter is a personal attack on, and what I said you consider a personal attack, and why you didn’t let me know sooner.
“I am pulling the rejected letter. 26 days out from the date that the MM should have run a retraction of the front page story is too far out. It might as well be six months from now.
Paul wrote back: “Cynda, the headline you gave the letter on your website was the deciding factor. It became obvious what the real intent of the letter was when you posted it.
Paul Goetz rejected my letter to the Mountain Mail based on the title of my article in the Salida Daily Post, “OPINION: Jan Wondra’s Reporting Not So Wondraful”.
Here’s the link to that article: http://salidadailypost.com/2017/03/13/opinion-jan-wondras-reporting-not-so-wondraful/
I find this reason for rejecting my letter bizarre. Since when does the Mountain Mail censure their letters based on what the writer has written on other websites? How scary is that as an affront to freedom of speech?
Of course the title or content of my posts on the Salida Daily Post should have no bearing on how the news editor Paul Goetz treats my submissions to the Mountain Mail, just as what Cheryl Brown-Kovacik says on her website has no bearing on the Mail. Or what people say on the Salida Citizen.
What intent is Goetz referring to? My intent was to inform. Opinions have intent as well. Opinions are encouraged in the letters section of the Mail. Except my opinion, apparently.
I wrote back: “Paul, All the MM had to do was retract the story, preferably the next day. If you had, you would not have heard a peep out of me, or on the SDP. You did not retract the story. I waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. Nineteen days I waited, and then I felt provoked to write about it. So I did.
“Personally, if I were either Jan Wondra or Cheryl Brown-Kovacic, I would have immediately made sure the story was corrected. If Jan did not want to write a correcting story, and I were Cheryl, I would write a letter to editor explaining to readers that the story was based on false memory, or something like that.
“That’s what I would have done. So please excuse my frustration. I still have no answer from MM as to why the story wasn’t retracted. Letting a false story like that float out there for weeks does damage. I’m sure you understand that.
“Perhaps you better understand my title on the SDP website. All of this could have been avoided with a timely retraction.
It appears that the Mountain Mail has rallied around Jan Wondra and will not tolerate letters critical of her reporting or lack of reporting. That’s censorship.
Meanwhile, the Mountain Mail publishes letters containing personal attacks and supporting Jan Wondra. For example, a March 24 letter stated, in part:
“Good reporters, even so-so reporters, always get at least two sources to any news story and follow up with all parties written about. Instead this article reads like a tirade written by Brown with McCabe’s byline.”
“In McCabe’s ‘article' Brown used his usual tactics of belittling anyone who disagrees with him.”
“I wonder what nasty, bullying, belittling comments Brown will make about me after he reads this letter?”
“Do you, the citizens of Salida, want the apparent triumvirate of Brown, Kahn and LiVecchi running the city without regard to other opinions or input and with their apparent control of the press? In the 1920s Russia’s triumvirate [Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin] would meet before party meetings to agree on their strategy and instruct their followers on how to vote. Sound familiar?”
The Mountain Mail has censured me – and perhaps others – with their new and alarming definition of “personal attack”. My opinion is not welcome in their letters section. What else can I conclude?