Can#8217;t we all just get along?
It’s not uncommon for a small community newspaper to get caught up in disputes among groups. Usually it takes the form of them trying fight their battles in the paper.
This happened last year at the News-Herald when the Hall Place Community Association basically imploded.
For those of you unfamiliar with Hall Place, it’s the area located just across the tracks on South Main Street with lots of handsome, older homes. Last year, it became embroiled in a civil war of sorts over an effort by some members of its neighborhood group to have the neighborhood apply for designation as a historic district.
Turns out, there was a group of folks over there who didn’t want that. One thing led to another and the organization’s officers were eventually ousted in a coup and fled the mainland.
All of this, of course, played out in letters to the editor to the News-Herald.
Eventually, a member of the group that was ousted (I think, I can’t really recall who was on which side now because I tried to block it out), paid me a visit and urged me to stop running letters from the other side. Frankly, by then, I was about tired of it and had already decided not to run anymore letters on the topic unless something new came up.
Anyway, earlier this month, we published a Town Topic item about an upcoming meeting of the Hall Place Community Association. The notice said the meeting was at 7 tonight at the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority Office.
We are not in the habit here of doing a lot of background checking on events people send us. We ask that they be submitted in writing and include a phone number and contact name should we have questions about it.
On Friday morning I received a call from the same gentleman who had visited me last summer about the letters to the editor. He wanted to know who submitted the Town Topics item. I told him I did
not know and transferred the call to Managing Editor Douglas Grant.
The man went on to tell Grant that he represents the real Hall Place Community Association (Like a Hall Place Community Association in exile, I suppose) and that he would appreciate it if we did not run items from the other group or at least not allow them to refer to themselves as the Hall Place Community Association.
Grant politely told the gentleman that his request was unreasonable and that until they provide us with some type of cease and desist order from a judge, that we will publish whatever events groups send to us and that it’s none of our business what they call themselves, a position I agreed with 100 percent.
That afternoon, Grant and I received hand-delivered packages, which included some type of state certificate showing that the group had incorporated or done something official under the name Hall Place Community Association. It also had hard copies of an email exchange from last August between me and a representative of the Hall Place Community Association in exile, in which I had apparently OK’d their request to be the exclusive Hall Place Community Association in the pages of the News-Herald.
While I hate to go back on something I told someone, I was out of line in doing so. It’s not the newspaper’s, or its publisher’s, decision on what a group or organization wants to call itself. That is up to them and as long as it does not offend the community’s sense of decency or until ordered by a court to do otherwise, that is our policy.
It would be nice if these folks could find some kind of common ground (i.e. we live in the same neighborhood and care about what happens to it) and spend their energies working together to better their neighborhood instead of sniping at one another. It’s a turn off.
Andy Prutsok is publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9601 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.