Time to confess.
You know those newsletters that Columbia County government inserts in your water bills, the ones that Brett McGuire is complaining about in his letter to the editor today?
Yep. Those are my fault.
See, several years ago, one of the county's bureaucrats asked if I'd give the county free space in the paper to provide information to readers on various and sundry county programs.
Because we do sometimes try to make money with this newspaper - I've grown fond of such luxuries as feeding my family and all - I'm typically leery of giving away space on all this crushed-tree real estate.
Besides, I'm not sure there's much news value in puffy PR releases from the county government, or any other government, or any business for that matter.
If you want space for puffery, pay for it. Operators are standing by to take your call and your money.
Time went by and one day the request filtered my way again, this time by way of a new staffer who probably was viewed as fresh meat. Again, I said no.
Lo and behold, before long the county was printing up a nifty, full-color-glossy newsletter with all kinds of useful information and a few typographical errors and grammatical slips thrown in (that's probably on purpose so the county wouldn't look too uppity and sophisticated).
They sure showed me.
So now McGuire is calling the county on it. He's never complained about the newsletters openly before, but I guess that's because he's been busy running for a couple of different state offices and wasn't concerned with such middling local matters then.
Suddenly, though, that sort of stuff matters. McGuire lost a state Senate race, and then he lost a state House race, and now he's worked his way down to the county commission chairman race. If he fails to catch fire at that level, he might be forced to beg for an appointment to the library board or something.
Anyway, the attack on the newsletters is pretty clever, even if a little cynical. Let's face it: Citizens complain about not being informed by their local government, and then complain about these newsletters that, well, are designed to inform them about their local government.
I'd love to think those citizens get all the information they need from their community newspaper. Heck, if the government wants us to print that information and share it with everyone in the county - including those who aren't on county water - we'd be happy to sell them the space.
A few months ago, when McGuire wanted to spell out some complaints about the county's budget, that's what he did. He put his money where his mouth was, plunking down big bucks to run ads in the paper.
That would seem to entitle McGuire to complain when the county puts your money where county officials' mouths are, I suppose.
Come to think of it, we didn't charge him for that letter to the editor. Dang it.
Color them stupid
While I don't really make new year's resolutions, I typically do look for ways to improve when a new year starts. This year looked like a good time to stop fighting small-scale ignorance.
See, for a long time I've been a fan of urban legends. That comes in handy when people send e-mails to everyone in their address book spouting all manner of looney conspiracy theories.
The old me would quickly fact-check the piece, often with snopes.com, and fire back to debunk it. The original sender rarely appreciated the correction and usually responding indignantly, as if I had slapped the red off their apple.
Fine, the new me says. Let 'em be stupid. But the other day I just couldn't help it.
A left-wing organization sent out a screaming tirade against the 10th District congressman, Paul Broun.
Except they spelled his name "Brown."
To their credit, they were very polite in receiving my correction. And in removing my address from their mailing list.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail email@example.com. Follow at twitter.com/barrypaschal.)
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