Lots of positive responses to my thoughts, mostly in private emails, a
couple of list-serve responses. Thanks for taking the time to think
about it. For those who think the original post is some kind of
off-topic item, let me remind you that a major portion of the content
was regarding remarks published about Margaret Cheney. She and Jim
Masland represent the Windsor-Orange-2 House district, which includes
the towns of Norwich, Sharon, Strafford and Thetford. I post here
because I'd rather just share my thoughts in long form than wring my
hands over how to condense it into sound-bites and try to get it
My goal is "some communication," not reaching the widest possible
audience. If you don't want to hear it and think I'm annoying, please
stop reading. It's fine. I glaze over a lot of the long stuff here,
myself. No offense taken if you tune me out. That's your
prerogative. Mine is to speak up when I feel moved to.
In short, over the last week I have heard a minority of people saying
that it's fine to raise issues and ask the questions even if it blurs
or crosses the line into personal attack territory. I firmly believe
this is NOT EVER OK, and I'll stand by that. Also, I hope that more
people will stop tolerating it. It's the status quo. We need to
raise the bar on the level of discussion. Debates can be undertaken
WITHOUT character assault. People who have a beef with each other can
discuss the beef and leave each other's personal shortcomings out of
the discussion. Insults and insinuations have no place in intelligent
writing. Yet it is pervasive as a technique, and I see it in the
local newspaper all the time from lots of different authors, not just
I insinuated something awful in my last post and feel bad about it!
Been feeing terrible all week for realizing that even though I didn't
mean to and I was trying to do something else, I essentially called
Jim Kenyon a sociopath! Ergh! Not productive! Sorry!
As a human being, I know that when we get frustrated we tend to lash
out. This isn't sociopathic behavior - it's just emotional on this
personal level. I'm sure that individually, the writers at the paper
are fine human beings. Jim Kenyon, whom I don't know personally but
probably will meet at some point, is just as good, just as emotional,
and just as human as the next person. That's not where my original
comments about sociopathy were directed.
On an institutional level, meaning from an established organization,
continual behavior without regard for its effects on the community...
is sociopathic behavior. What the heck do I know, really? I'm not a
psychologist. But in my understanding, this behavior by the newspaper
as if there are no consequences, as if it can do no wrong ...well,
that fits my bill as a seriously flawed and antisocial organization.
I've seen this paper go after Norwich with guns ablazin' for years
now, and Hanover, and sometimes Thetford... and some other people I
know have been the target of unfair attacks. I usually read the AP
articles feeling mostly satisfied, and then read some of the local
articles and just cringe.
As far as our Valley News is concerned, the editors are equally if not
more to blame for allowing the level of local reporting to remain at
such a low standard. Not because the reporters are incapable! I've
met a lot of them and they are good people. It's the FINAL PRODUCT,
I'm talking about. Isn't it an editor's job to actively raise the
level of quality on a daily basis?
If I were an editor there, any time an article crossed my desktop
which contained character assault or hyperbolic language that could
result in the emotions being mistaken for the issues, I would get out
my big red stamp that says, "REWRITE AND RESUBMIT." Sadly, this does
not seem to be the case at the Valley News. Sadly, this behavior of
publishing without regard to its effect on others is the standard
remaining in effect. I think first drafts are final drafts as a
matter of daily business at our local news. But who knows. I'm
usually fast asleep in my bed when all of this goes down every night.
In any event, I think it's time we started discussing things
intelligently instead. Especially as it regards our Senators and
Reps, who are trying to make sense out of this tax tangle we find
ourselves in. Let's focus on the issues. We are all basically
screwed for taxes in these four towns, and we need to put our heads
together to figure a way out of it.
Andrew W.J. Toler