You owe Cheryl Witham an apology.
Your editorial “Sure, just sue everybody” [Our Views, July 14] presents no credible evidence for your claim that the dispute between the village and high school is “either greed or ego-driven.” Your decision to vilify the chief financial officer of the high school is not only personally vicious, but also reduces an important, complicated allocation of taxpayer dollars to the stuff of tabloid journalism.
There are many ways that a community paper could serve the public in its coverage of TIF finances and the obligations embodied in the intergovernmental agreement. First and foremost, you could do the actual work of presenting the underlying economics of the dispute in a factual presentation. A good journalist serves the public by bringing clarity and objectivity to complex matters such as these. There is also a role for advocacy. It is reasonable and constructive to criticize the decisions of the respective boards and their administrative executives. It is even acceptable (but probably the least helpful) to bemoan the process and blame the lawyers. But it is not acceptable to fabricate motivations and construct a diabolical narrative without facts.
I have gotten to know Cheryl Witham as a member of a high school advisory committee that is looking for ways to control costs and maintain educational quality. Cheryl is both hard working and competent. She listens intently and patiently to the input of faculty members, staff, students and community participants.
I could fabricate my own list of reasons why the editorial board was motivated to engage in such character assassination. Maybe the editor is lazy and would rather complain about lawyers and fat contracts than engage in fact-driven analysis. It seems plausible that you were swayed by an unnamed source at village hall and are gullible enough to take the bait, particularly when the other side is playing hardball in a high stakes negotiation and won’t return your phone calls. It is even possible that two middle-aged men, the publisher of the local paper and some village administrator just cannot understand why this female executive doesn’t agree with them. She may even make more money than they do. She must be “ego and greed driven.”
But it is not fair to imagine what motivated you to write this bone-headed editorial. It is fair to expect an apology.
Submitted to WednesdayJournalOnline.com