Response to Selectman’s Criticism

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As a volunteer and occasional coeditor at the Observer, I take exception to certain comments in First Selectman Melissa Mack’s column about the paper. In a discussion with Suffield Middle School students about her job, she chose to take a cheap shot at the Observer due to her distress over an article written about the Suffield Police Department. Referring to the paper as the Obscurer, a term the Observer staff themselves coined in a satirical issue created in jest many years ago, Ms. Mack takes the volunteer staff to task for not living up to “the most basic of journalistic standards” and cites the article “SPD Review Causes Stir” as evidence that the Observer lacks a “devotion to impartiality.” To the contrary the Observer goes to great lengths to ensure that the reporting is accurate and unbiased, often spending many hours attending town and commission meetings, reviewing documents, reports, agendas and minutes and talking to those involved in the issue being reported. Likewise, if there has been an error in reporting and it is brought to the Observer’s attention, a correction is printed. Moreover, the Observer clearly states that editorials and opinions are those of the writer and not of the Observer.

While it is part of our mission to build community, the other stated part is “to provide a forum where all sides of an issue may be addressed.” When Ms. Mack is challenged by commission members or citizens at a meeting, she may not like it, but those opposing viewpoints deserve to be heard. And while the Observer does strive to get all sides of a story, it is often not possible to fully report on some of the more problematic issues when those issues are dealt with behind closed doors in executive session or elected officials do not respond to our inquiries in a timely fashion.

The Observer is a hometown newspaper put together by engaged, intelligent citizens who do a respectable job notwithstanding their lack of professional journalists. I am disappointed that as the leader of our town, Ms. Mack would lambaste the work these people do by referring to the Observer as the dispenser of “fake news.” 

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