Mentioned this the other day, that Mr. Thomas was, briefly, writing an editorial column at the Glen Rose Reporter newspaper, and had also written a couple of lengthy letters to the editor regarding a few subjects, to include the hospital changeover. He sent this over, which is a response to an editorial in the Glen Rose Reporter from this last week.
Ms. Vanden Berge
First, I compliment the executives and staff of the Glen Rose Reporter for an excellent newspaper. I know it is difficult for a small-town newspaper to present interesting coverage each week given the limited resources and number of staff that are affordable. You do an outstanding job!
Only today I had the opportunity to read your editorial about freedom of speech and of the press published in the September 16 issue of the Reporter.
A few weeks ago I was asked by your reporter here to write a column of local interest for your newspaper. I agreed to do so, but told your employees that I might put something controversial in the column from time to time. I understood that to be acceptable.
After writing the first column, I expected to be told when the next one needed to be ready. When I inquired, I was told that it would be once a month. That was fine with me as long as I would be able to send Letters to the Editor from time to time. I told your employees that whether the letters were published or not, I realized the decision rested with the Reporter. You have a business to run and that only makes sense in a free-enterprise system.
During the intervening few weeks I wrote and you published several of my letters revealing many facts and my opinions about the operations of Glen Rose Medical Center and its relationship with Somervell County officials. I realized that my comments, opinions, and recommendations would not be happily received by some. In any event, I appreciate your publishing them.
A week or so ago I inquired again as to when another column was due. I was told that the column had already been promised to someone else—that there had been a mixup. Again, that was fine with me as long as I could still send Letters to the Editor for your decision as to publishing them or not. Again, it is your business, not mine or anyone else’s, what you choose to publish.
Just today I finally got around to reading the opinion page of the September 16 issue of the Reporter. I noticed with great interest that the editorial in that newspaper was written by you, the Managing Editor of the Reporter. This is fine—that is doing what a managing editor is expected to do.
You spent almost all your column dedicated to saying how strong an advocate of freedom of speech and the press you are. Your dedication to those basic principles of our nation is admirable. You also talked about not quelling the voices of those who disagree with government or even yourself. Again, this is very admirable.
However, you then proceeded to announce a policy limiting free speech to once a month and a maximum of 400 words. One day per month is all that a citizen is allowed to free speech and the other 30 days free speech is ignored. I understand the 400 word limit-you have a newspaper to run and must include many items of interest to readers.
I would point out that many decisions on which citizens would like to express an open opinion are made in less than a 30 day period.
Let’s face it-probably without intending to-- you really only have endorsed limited free speech!
Rather than opening up government to public scrutiny, I believe you have caved into pressure to protect some amount of advertising revenue of the Reporter. If I understand correctly, newspapers have a guiding principle that the advertising department and the editorial staff are separated and one is not permitted to influence the other.
During a meeting last week the Somervell County Judge made in open court the comment that he did not see why the County should continue to support a newspaper that gave “ink away by the barrel”. Since he incorrectly lifted certain of my words from a previously published letter, there is no doubt in my mind that this was a veiled threat against the Reporter that he would see to it that the Reporter gets no more advertising from the County.
Further, it is rumored that one of the executives of the Reporter met with Gary Marks, President of the Hospital Foundation, recently. Could it be possible that Marks told your executive the same thing with respect to hospital advertising? Again, my suspicion is based on this unverified rumor with respect to the conversation with Marks.
In any event, rather than wrap yourself in constitutional principles and violate the moral principle of journalistic integrity, I would hope that you would be nosier and bolder with respect to disclosing current happenings and community-wide issues in Somervell County.
The opinions are my own and are not endorsed by anyone.
Charles R. (Charley) Thomas, Sr.