Don#8217;t believe everything you read

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Just because something is published in the newspaper does not mean it is true.

But if something is repeated in print enough times, reasonable people might begin to mistake it for truth.

Mistaking repetition for veracity, folks may begin to whisper, gossip, criticize, condemn, disparage and ultimately attack an individual, an idea, a project, all because of something they read in the paper, and because they mistook it for the truth.

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Good columnists recognize the power of their position and respect the responsibility that comes along with it.

Good columnists are hard to find.

Some writers cannot walk by a word processor without taking a potshot at someone or something, regardless of whether the complaint or observation is grounded in fact.

Never ones to allow the facts to stand in the way of a good story, they spin tales of corruption and incompetence, often in complete disregard of the truth and the precepts of responsible journalism.

Sometimes it is done intentionally, sometimes out of ignorance; but every time it occurs, it is done to the detriment of our community.

And Suffolk deserves better.

For some reason, the Hilton Garden Inn at Constant’s Wharf is a favorite target of mindless complainers.

They report that it is always “empty” and paint the project as a whimsical, ill-conceived mistake that will lead Suffolk to financial ruin.

What they omit from their discussion is that the hotel is a key component of a carefully crafted strategy to return Suffolk to turn of the century prosperity and vibrancy.

And even more importantly, what they fail to tell you is that the plan is working.

Whether they are suppressing the truth, overlooking the facts, or they are simply too lazy to scratch beneath the surface before sending their stories to print, they don’t report the truth.

The truth is that the hotel’s performance is exceeding projections, and that the folks that are making it happen should be congratulated, not scorned.

There will be plenty of disappointments deserving of criticism as our city grows.

Let’s enjoy this great success while we can.

The nattering nabobs of negativity would also have you believe that our city is being held hostage by a bunch of tax and spend liberals who are abusing their positions within city government to further their own sinister objectives.

The critics who find nothing but fault with our city manager as he struggles with exploding growth and management of overburdened services need to step outside of Suffolk and look at what’s happening to our sister cities.

By comparison, Suffolk city leaders are doing a marvelous job of managing growth and maintaining quality of life.

Rarely do they receive the attention that they deserve for a job well done; instead they take unwarranted abuse in the press week after week.

Most citizens do not appreciate the level of difficulty encountered in managing a city growing at the rate of ours.

Some of us who have had the opportunity to survey the talent in other municipalities are truly surprised at how many superb individuals that this city employs.

Many of our city department heads could earn much more money in larger cities or in the private sector, yet for whatever reason, they choose to stay here and endure groundless criticism by people who have no appreciation of how lucky we are.

Maybe someday when it’s too late and some of them have left for positions in Virginia Beach, Fairfax, or a large corporation, we will realize how fortunate we were to have them.

What a shame.

And finally, my personal favorite—the conspiracy between a “connected downtown developer” and the City of Suffolk to highjack the project at the old Thomas Jefferson school from hundreds of other deserving developers who were lining up to bid on that project (note tongue planted firmly in cheek).

Mickey Garcia was awarded that project after anyone—and everyone—had an opportunity to submit a response to the Request for Proposal.

Most other developers did not want anything to do with that project—too expensive, too risky, they said.

But Mr. Garcia has yet again stepped up to the plate and placed his own credibility and money on the line for a project that is by no means a lock to succeed.

But like so many of Garcia’s other ventures, if this one does succeed, then the entire city stands to gain much more from it than he does.

Just like it did as a result of his renovation of College Court, just as it did as a result of his renovation of Brewer Avenue and much of the West end of town, just as it will with his next project on the corner of North Broad Street and Second Avenue, North Broad Crossing Condominiums.

But for reasons which escape me, the man who took the initiative to try to clean up much of this town was the target of repeated attacks on his credibility and reputation by columnists with their own agenda.

The press is an effective tool against corruption and malfeasance.

If abused, however, it can also inflict severe harm on a small community like Suffolk.

Hopefully folks will stand up for themselves and their community and demand truth and veracity from the local press.

Dave Arnold is a Suffolk resident and an attorney with the law firm of Pender & Coward, P.C.