In last week’s “Dissention —An Owner Talks Back,” an explanation behind parting ways with longtime Republican Journal columnist Lawrence Reichard gave one side of the story, mine. There have been several articles written about it by other newspapers and Lawrence and his supporters have weighed in with letters to editor.

In response to that column, Lawrence wrote me, sharing a letter to the editor he had submitted. It had been rejected for being repetitive to his earlier letters that were accepted and published.

I’ve decided to cede Lawrence my space for the final word and his rebuttal follows; readers can decide if it is new or a rehash.

My final word is that, as you read it, you consider there are two sides to a story; some of which you might read, some of which happens behind closed doors. And there can be nuance in words.

The word “fired” may be the word that was used but Lawrence was a freelance columnist. He was not technically terminated; he was told his services were no longer wanted.

Was it only about agenda, a difference of opinion, or is there more to the story? Was it about “limiting his coverage” — which he may, or may not, have offered? Perhaps other factors like trust or methodology, both in the case of Nordic and in some past instances, came into play?

I’m not trying to be coy on whether any of this applies to Lawrence, as I've had no conversations with him about it. My point is, that often explanations remain internal and are not screamed out. Yes, a columnist is allowed to defend his work, but if you also have enough intrinsic evidence, you can just decide it's best to move on, for the sake of both parties. Call it a firing or call it a divorce; simply said, it is time to move on, and perhaps some details are best not shared publicly.

The final thought for consideration is that when freelance columnists introduce themselves and invoke your business name in interviews, it can be confusing. Do they work for you, or don’t they? And, there is a firm line between opinion columns and reporting, but both reporters and opinion columnists should be clear about who they are, what they are doing and who they work for.

We never sent Lawrence out on assignment; he went to Norway on his own “nickel” and describes his trip as an investigative mission, yet many thought we sent him, including some of the people interviewed.

We take responsibility for publishing eight of his columns on Nordic Aquafarms; it is an important and controversial issue in the Belfast community. We didn’t agree, as Lawrence asserts, that all of his “facts” were well-vetted or that his methods met our standards.

For the final word; here is Lawrence’s rebuttal:

To the Editor:

Again, The Republican Journal and Courier Publications got it wrong, this time in owner Reade Brower's Dec. 6 editorial entitled "Dissension: an owner talks back."

In the editorial, Brower writes: "When you allow a columnist to write, unabated, over and over again, it becomes an agenda that begins to feel and look personal…." The operative words here are "when you allow." The Republican Journal and Courier Publications did indeed allow me to write every single word I wrote, and then some — they approved more Nordic Aquafarms coverage by me. And I continue to marvel at Courier Publications' ongoing refusal to take responsibility for that. As I wrote in a previous letter to the editor, I repeatedly offered to limit my Nordic coverage, but instead of even entertaining this possibility, Courier Publications fired me, and ever since then it has tried, in cowardly fashion, to pin on me all responsibility for its precipitous actions.

And I'm sorry if my Nordic coverage began to feel and look personal to Brower, but Brower's feeling that way doesn't make it true. There was nothing personal in my coverage — I simply stated the facts.

In his editorial, Brower wrote: "In the end it's about balance and fairness," but there's nothing fair about approving all my Nordic columns, and another Nordic column, and then firing me without even considering my offer to limit my Nordic coverage. In fact, at one point Courier Publications News Director Dunkle told me, "I don't care what you think is fair." In his editorial, Brower wrote that "in the end it's about dialogue." Clearly that is not the case. It takes two to dialogue, and Dunkle's communications with me were all one-sided.

In his editorial Brower wrote that my firing wasn't about my four years of writing. Well, he's certainly right about that — Courier Publications seems to have given no thought or consideration to that in its decision to fire me. And I suppose it's easy enough for Brower to dismiss those four years of writing, as he's not the one who put in those four years.

Lawrence Reichard


Disclosure: Reade Brower is the owner of The Republican Journal.