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Publisher's Voice: When political fighting trumps responsibility

Posted 11/20/12

Did you read last week’s story about our unsuccessful attempts to find more information about the attempted child abductions in Middletown? If you didn’t, here’s a brief synopsis:

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Publisher's Voice: When political fighting trumps responsibility

Posted

Our reporter called borough communications director Chris Courogen several times  for updates on two disturbing reports of child luring in Middletown. We received no additional information from Courogen regarding the cases, although he took time to leave a message criticizing Press And Journal’s Facebook posting on our failed attempts, calling it “unethical.”

He pointed us to Police Chief Mark Hovan for further inquires. But talking to Hovan resulted in much the same, only in reverse: Hovan took considerable time accusing the Press And Journal’s Sound Off column of “endangering the lives of his officers” and ended up pointing us back to Courogen for updates on the cases.

Did I mention at no time during all the posturing and finger-pointing did either one of these government officials choose to share updates regarding the question put forward? The attempted luring of two kids? Remember?

It was a debacle – sad, and typical.

The political powers that control the borough have, in the past year, chosen to blame, ridicule and lash out at those they perceive as enemies, including this newspaper. We’ve been simultaneously blamed for creating a tide of opposition by the public to Borough Council’s decisions and sarcastically belittled as a paper so insignificant that no one reads it. Apparently, the borough considered us the catalyst for public unrest this past week, and not the insignificant little paper in town, for Courogen and Hovan spent their time criticizing us – and precious little time updating an important investigation into a public threat.

If council hasn’t already tried to resolve the dispute in Borough Hall as to who should report the police department’s efforts to keep the public safe to an eager public, then it should. Council has the power to straighten it out, for the public good.

Time and time again we’ve witnessed behavior and attitudes from the borough that are, quite frankly, unprofessional. The borough has seemed to be on a course of willfullness and destruction. If you are unashamedly willful, there is a destructiveness in what you do. This is vastly different from standing firm in your integrity.

Right now, the only thing standing in the way of unrestrained willfulness? The local newspaper.

While the borough’s wrath is publicly directed at the newspaper, the most painful consequences are usually experienced by someone else. In this most recent childish fight, the consequences of refusing to report the public’s business – the progress on the child luring investigation – stand to be felt by our most vulnerable citizens: Children.

There should be no personal agenda in informing the public about that investigation.

You may think the crisis in our town is about debt and electric rates. This is all true on the surface. But on a deeper level, it is actually a crisis about officials acting out with no regard to consequence. And this crisis needs to be resolved.

The right kind of consequence is pretty important here. I would love to see a mature response from Middletown’s citizens.