Monday, August 20, 2007

Statement read into the record at Aug. 20 session

The following statement was submitted by me to the Middletown Township Committee, furnished to every member of the governing body, as well as all members of their primary support staff today (august 20th) and read into the record at tonight's committee session:

During the August 2nd Middletown Committee Workshop Meeting, Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger and Committeeman Thomas Hall made public comments about The Courier's coverage in town.

It is my intention tonight to answer the allegations directly made by Mayor Scharfenberger and inferred by Committeeman Hall.

I want to make it clear that responses and due diligence with regard to township government, Mayor Scharfenberger, Committeeman Hall or the rest of the committee for that matter, answering questions posed by my reporters, is all but non-existent. This mayor and this committee have a difficult time fielding questions about how they spend tax money, and so their choice where it involves my newspaper is not to deal with it at all.

This governing body has created a policy, at least to this newspaper, wherein all questions are posed to the public information officer, Cindy Herrschaft. No individual member of this committee is, I suppose, allowing themselves to speak with any reporter from Courier. Consequently, the many questions our reporters pose are placed through her and basically never answered. This tactic will not prevent news from being reported or stories from being written.

So, for any member of this committee to say they were not contacted before a story or about a story is patently untrue. What is true is that it was their respective choices not to respond to the stories produced by my newspaper's Editorial Section.

In response to Mayor Scharfenberger's allegations that my newspaper prints lies, I want to make it clear that The Courier has printed nothing that is dubious or, to the facts provided us by all parties contacted, in doubt by way of fact in any manner. Both myself and the newspaper at-large stand behind every word printed by our reporters. But not all facts are politically amenable to ambitious politicians or government that possesses a Nixonian style of management. This cannot be the newspaper's preoccupation, though, as out mission is clear: We print news of the day in Northern Monmouth County, something that has been our collective business at Courier since 1955.

Mr. Hall insinuated that Mr. Short, in working with Reporter Scott Shanley, betrayed some public trust for the sake of an alleged "Photo Op." In fact, Mr. Short was communicating with our readers, many of whom reside in Middletown. The Courier is as open to Mr. Scharfenberger and Mr. Hall, not to mention any other member of the governing body, as it is Mr. Short. This can be said of all elected and appointed people in all of the towns we cover. If there is any propaganda or manipulation of facts ongoing in this conversation, it is Mr. Hall's and, apparently, Mr. Scharfenberger.

With that said, I absolutely take exception to the comments made by Mr. Scharfenberger and Mr. Hall, the protocol under their respective mayoral administrations with regard to access to information, and the reckless diatribes these people have engaged in from the pulpit of governmental authority in this town.

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