Dissension: An owner talks back

By Reade Brower | Dec 06, 2018

They say that in a negotiation, if both parties are dissatisfied with the settlement, it must be a good one.

They also say newspapers that don’t have their detractors probably aren’t doing their job; making everyone happy is the easy route, but seldom can you do that when you are doing your job. In the case of main stream media, their job is to provide information to readers while being a watchdog to local, state and national leaders.

For The Republican Journal, the recent separation from columnist Lawrence Reichard has garnered disfavor with some readers, expressed last week in a scathing rebuke letter entitled “Irresponsible Local Press.”

Writers Tim Hughes and Jay Davis complain that the Journal isn’t doing its job and the recent firing of Lawrence represents a “long downward slide by our hometown paper.”

The issue of whether we have done enough reporting on Nordic Aquafarms is fair game for criticism. But, while it may fit their narrative to suggest threats of lawsuits were our reason for letting Lawrence go, that is hyperbole and no facts back up their assertion.

That we paid for eight columns, on the same subject, was the issue they cited.

When you allow a columnist to write, unabated, over and over again, it becomes an agenda that begins to feel and look personal; that doesn’t work for us, or for our readers looking for balance. Do Tim and Jay think we would allow a pro-Nordic columnist to write eight columns supporting the fish farm and what it will do for the community, without finally saying “enough”?

In the end it is about balance and fairness.

In the end it is about dialogue.

Tim and Jay close by suggesting it is perhaps time to start a new newspaper; that speaks to an agenda on their part. Wouldn’t they be better served to become part of the community working with this newspaper to make it better?

I knew Lawrence from one brief meeting; I like Lawrence and liked the overall balance he gave to Tom Seymour’s conservative take. This isn’t about Lawrence or about his awards; it is about objective writing. Even an opinion column can’t beat up on a local business (or a potential local business) week after week, at least not in this paper. Fairness and agenda must find a delicate balance.

Tom Seymour writes from a conservative standpoint but doesn’t attack the same subject, column after column; nor does he put out potential slander. His opinion is open to criticism, sometimes my own, but he is welcome to present his version of truth because his agenda is general, not personal. If he were attacking a certain local politician, week after week, we would not permit that.

I would invite Tim and Jay to create a forum in The Republican Journal that speaks to truth and issues important to them, Belfast, and Waldo County; I believe in the saying that “You are either part of the solution or you are part of the problem.”

For those who suggest this was censorship or a fear of legal consequences, I say baloney. The two letters in last week’s papers — this one referenced here, and another by departing cartoonist Forest Taber — were welcomed.

Even though they contained harsh criticism, they were printed because they were both respectful with their opinions and deserved space.

Reade Brower is owner of The Republican Journal.


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