What to do when the only newspaper in town is unethical?

edited October 21 in News

I've been asked to post my testimony from the 10/17 City Council meeting regarding the mayor's treatment of Council member Eileen Rogers and the failure of the Mountain Mail to cover the topic. Here are my comments:

Good evening Mr. Mayor and Council members,

My name is Anne Marie Holen and I am a downtown Salida resident, [address]. I am speaking here tonight to express a concern about the state of our democracy here in Salida.

With elections coming up, I have been trying to be a good citizen and attend local candidate forums and I also decided to attend an entire City Council meeting and an entire Planning Commission meeting. So I was here on October 3, sitting in the back with my knitting. The meeting was pretty tame – until the end, when it was Council member Rogers’ turn to speak and she began to speak, which led to an angry outburst from the mayor and then finally he used the gavel to prevent her from continuing.

I was stunned. I don’t know Eileen Rogers, but she is one of my elected representatives from Ward 2 and I was very interested in what she had to say.

I thought surely there would be a news story in the Mountain Mail about the incident and the broader topic raised by Council member Rogers. There has been no news coverage.

The Mountain Mail published an opinion piece by Council member Rogers, but an opinion piece is not a news story, and so the public is left wondering: Did the mayor did really spend taxpayer money to use the city attorney to try to dig up damaging information on two Council members whom he perceives as political enemies?

If those allegations are true, it’s deserving of a news story. If they are not true, that’s deserving of a news story. If the truth is more complicated and nuanced, that still deserves a news story.

But the mayor’s behavior and the lack of follow-up by the Mountain Mail leave us in the dark.

A free and independent and ethical news media is one of the pillars of our democracy, part of the checks and balances that help prevent abuse of power. Why the silence? Why was Eileen Rogers silenced and why has the Mountain Mail been silent?

Yesterday I called former Mountain Mail reporter Sam Liebl – who now lives in Texas – and asked for his thoughts. He was very candid. He also wanted to be clear that he is not on anyone’s “side.” But from what he learned as a reporter – which is more than what the average citizen in Salida knows – there is reason to believe that Council member Rogers’ allegations are founded on fact and that the Mountain Mail deliberately suppressed the story. This is not a partisan issue. What appears to have happened is fundamentally unethical and a disservice to the community. We the people deserve better.

Thank you for allowing me the time to speak on this issue.

Comments

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  • For the 20 something years I have lived in the area, the "Mountain Merle" has printed what it wants, when it wants, and is generally a "news free" newspaper, instead espousing Merle's opinion on various issues, marketing Monarch Ski Area, marketing Heart of the Rockies Med Center, marketing real estate enticing folk to come and destroy what little open space and small town character is left in the pursuit of the almighty dollar, and avoiding anything that doesn't have a warm fuzzy feeling to it unless it can be sensationalized for shock value, such as Friday's front page story.

    That being said, it's more the norm than the exception to the rule for small town papers. The Summit Daily News which was the rag I read when I lived there, was the same exact way, until Summit County collectively degraded into the suburb of Denver it is now.

    Merle owns the paper, and as such can print what he wants, when he wants and how he wants. This isn't a quasi municipal resource, it's a privately held company, Arkansas Valley Publishing Company. You can choose to either read it, or not, but you can't dictate to AVP what they should or should not write about.

    You can however ask them to cover something, but whether they choose to or not is their call.

  • All, The current election division within the Salida population, as spoken, written and advertised, seems to be, Paleo Salida versus Neo Salida. The Mountain Mail in the shifting of and removal of staff, and editorial comments, as well as the published guest columns represents mostly the hyper long term residents (Paleo Salida). Paleo Salida citizen comments tend to be against the further evolution of the local economy and government. Change is apparently being thought of by those who have been here less than many years, and are local entrepreneurs, business owners, as well as those wishing to create newer community organizations, for example the Creative District. This comment is just an observation of what is happening, not a judgment of which side is correct about our collective future. Merle owns a business but does not live in Salida proper.

  • To reiterate - the real story that should remain front and center – is that city attorney invoices show that our mayor directed the city attorney over the past year via “special projects” to research and scrutinize the actions of council persons Eileen Rogers and Chery Brow-Kovacic. Quotes from those invoices directed the city attorney to search for any “false public statements and admissions against city interests, public misinformation campaign and fake news promulgation by public officials”. The city attorney was paid $9,767.23 for this! Okay, the MM refuses to report on this, but it is a story that all need to know and understand. I cannot understand how anyone from either side of our local political divide could condone/support this paranoid unethical misuse of public money and support for the mayor’s mean spirited bullying tactics?

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