It is no secret that the long-running process of Nordic Aquafarms' permit applications for its proposed Belfast fish farm has been accompanied by considerable controversy in various forums, including the pages of this newspaper. Feelings on the part of both opponents and supporters of the project have often run very high.

Opponents have made many claims, some based on science, others more speculative, about the potential harm the project may do. Nordic has also made claims about the potential benefits of its project. Nordic, not the opponents, has borne the burden of proof that its project meets local, state and federal requirements, as is proper.

On Aug. 21, we received a press release from Upstream Watch, one of the opponents, about a memorandum it had filed with the state Department of Environmental Protection concerning possible air emissions from Nordic's project. We edited the release, making clear that it was not our work, but had come from Upstream Watch, and posted it on our website. We referred to Upstream's predictions about the potential effects of the project as "claims," and attributed all statements of fact to the memorandum. The item carried no byline, as a reported story would have.

The following Monday, we received email from Nordic spokeswoman Jacki Cassida, complaining that the Upstream press release should have been labeled as opinion, that we should have asked Nordic for a comment on it, that it represented unbalanced reporting on our part. Cassida also threatened to pull Nordic's advertising from the paper.

We responded, explaining why we felt we had acted appropriately in publishing the Upstream release, but our response left Nordic unsatisfied. Through the good offices of the sales rep on Nordic's account, the ad ran in last week's paper.

This week began with another irate email from Cassida, this time saying that Nordic would run no more ads in The Republican Journal until "we are seeing that the RJ has done a better job balancing its content regarding anything Nordic-related on a consistent basis," at which time "we will revisit our position on supporting it."

We again wrote to Cassida, allowing that in future we would handle communications we receive regarding the Nordic project much more carefully, and pointing out that we have received about an equal number of complaints from both sides about favoring the other side in our reported coverage. That is often an editor's best metric that she's hitting the right balance in covering a story.

As reporters and editors, we sometimes make mistakes. Even when we don't, sometimes readers take issue with our coverage of a story. That's fine, and we welcome it.

Regardless of the mistakes we may or may not have made in covering this story, one thing must be clear. The Republican Journal's news coverage is not for sale. We will neither publish, nor refrain from publishing, anything because an advertiser tells us to. Our salespeople know this, and respect it.

We work hard to give thorough, balanced coverage to the important stories in our community, always remembering that it is the readers we serve. Not the advertisers, not our sources, not the politicians — the readers.

We have suffered financially, along with the other businesses in our community, from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, but if our reporting is for sale, we have nothing left to offer. That will not happen under the current management and staff.