I would like to address a letter submitted by a reader this week. I believe it is my duty as your new publisher to clarify the philosophy of community journalism I bring to your local newspaper, after all, it is yours. I am merely a steward, hopefully for quite some time.
I appreciate Commissioner Johnson calling our coverage to task, I wish more would voice their concern so that we could begin to clearly define the community expectation. That expectation should be more easily identified as we begin to convene our Morning Sun Advisory Board in the near future.
The Advisory Board is made up of almost 20 stakeholders in the community running the gambit between civic and business leaders, public and private individuals and a host of readers who well represent the area we serve.
Now, back to Commissioner Johnson’s criticism of our coverage.
He took exception to the fact that we didn’t report on the cancelation of a discussion of school funding, and possible cuts, at the state house in Topeka. Basically the debate was tabled, in his words, “to allow legislators to return to their districts to talk with their constituents about crafting solutions.”
He then chided us a bit and wished we joined the Topeka Capital-Journal and Lawrence Journal-World in covering the subject and informing our readers. Again, I welcome the criticism and I offer up our position, as well as invite your thoughts.
Just as municipal government has to limit their services to what their taxes and fees generate, so do newspapers — and the Morning Sun is no exception. We have to decide where best to focus our limited resources and we have, right or wrong, focused on hyper-local events.
We supplement state and national news through the use of The Associated Press and other news agencies. That is largely how we cover the state legislature. We simply cannot place a staffer in Topeka like the aforementioned state and regional papers.
Here is where I see our mission, and again, this is where I invite comment and criticism. As the commissioner said, our legislators have the opportunity to return and speak with their constituents (all of us) regarding a solution to this possible cut in education funding. That is the hyperlocal point of all of this — what are we going to do about it?
I would encourage our local representatives to schedule town hall meetings on the subject. I would welcome op-eds from the superintendent and his finance team about the implications of further cuts on our children’s education. As the district receives a large share of local taxes, I would hope the city/county takes the lead in facilitating these discussions. Options for making ends meet range from cutting services at the schools to raising taxes and bond issues to hold pat. If — and I hope when — these forums are held, it is the Morning Sun’s obligation and duty to cover citizen comment and any solutions which come out of the meetings. The Morning Sun would be happy to co-host an event or series of events with district and city.
The Morning Sun would be front and center reporting on those types of productive, news worthy events before, during and after. Our editorial page, Facebook page and website are open 24/7 to hash out discussion in a way no other news agency can provide Pittsburg and Crawford County.
I take my obligation to providing a quality paper very seriously and admit that I need help fine tuning the course the vessel takes, therefore I invite your feedback and appreciate any and all feedback.
I agree with Commissioner Johnson that we are in an era of "alternative facts" and "fake news." I further clarify that assertion by adding that your best defense against both in the search for truth is your local newspaper.
— Jamey Honeycutt is the publisher of the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at email@example.com