On Tuesday evening I came home later than normal. My daughter met me at the side door to the garage and yelled, “MAMA!” I said, what are you still doing up? She said she was getting a book for “Da-dee” to read. My son met me at the top of the stairs and fell into my arms, a tight bear hug around my neck. He whispered, “mama,” and I squeezed him tighter.
I had just spent the last hour or so driving around the valley. Just making loops on the back roads and thinking. I had planned to cover a pro-mascot rally at the high school, had scheduled space in the paper for the story to run just against our Tuesday deadline. But I was hesitating.
I struggled for weeks to address the growing anger on private Facebook pages that would sometimes spill out onto the Teton Valley News’ Facebook page. The anger and animosity that was driving members of this community seemed to attach their emotions to the paper.
Da-dee picked the kids up at my office so I could go unencumbered by parental duties. I started to head over to the high school just before 7 p.m., but at the last minute, I turned around.
To review, it’s been suggested that I’m censoring conservative voices from the pages of the paper. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s true I didn’t initially run a letter from Tony Goe submitted a couple of weeks ago, but in his posts to closed Facebook groups he failed to include the correspondences that I gave him permission to post explaining my position. His letter was skating a journalistic line that I needed more time to vet. Unlike social media, newspapers are not a free-for-all. I owe it to my profession and this community to vet opinion pieces that serve little purpose but to proliferate division and could ultimately damage the community. I never said no to printing his letter, but I also won’t be intimidated and bullied into doing so. Maybe he will explain this in these closed groups online.
And yes, it’s true I declined to run a letter from a former executive director of the Native American Guardian Association because it was criticizing the Washington Post’s reporting. The Post Register declined to run the letter, too. Newspapers typically run letters commenting on their own stories, not those of a national newspaper. Andre, the author, claims he’s a journalist, so I thought he would understand. So try again Andre, I’ll be happy to run something related to the reporting of the Teton Valley News.
To date, I have received two letters reflecting the desire to save the mascot, and I have run both. Since then, I have not received one letter to the editor from one local in support of the mascot. I’d welcome the correspondence, if I get it.
To date, only one person has had the guts to come into my office and tell me that they are disappointed in our reporting of the mascot issue. I respect that person for doing so, and I believe we had a productive conversation and he seemed to leave with a fuller picture of certain decisions that were made at the paper. I gave him my boss’ cell phone number so he could further vent his frustration, if he chooses to do so.
Otherwise, all criticism has been relegated to closed Facebook pages. I was kicked out of the Save the Redskins Facebook page and was declined a second attempt to join, so I’m unable to respond to criticism. I guess this is convenient for the narrative some in the group want to create.
The Teton County Sheriff told me he received a call asking if I could be prohibited from attending Tuesday’s pro-mascot rally, with a member of Save the Redskins calling me out by name. So yes, the press felt uninvited on a variety of levels.
If you want to save the mascot, you have to present a compelling argument rather than trying to pin your anger to the paper, move-ins or liberals. We have not witnessed that to date. What we have seen is a lot of finger pointing at some girl from Pittsburgh. We put fries on our salad and drowned the lettuce in ranch dressing, so please, if you think I can’t handle what you’re you dishing up, you’ve never been to Primanti’s at midnight.
Send me your letters. Stop calling the sheriff out of fear. Let’s hear what you have say. In the meantime, I’ll be home, focusing on what really matters.
Jeannette Boner, General Manager, Teton Valley News