The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

August 3, 2012

Let the truth be told

Calvin Adkins

TARBORO — In a letter to the editor written by Princeville mayor Priscilla Everette-Oates, it is stated that I am one of seven people who are against her administration and our efforts have affected everybody in Princeville.

This absurd assumption was so far out in left field that I was not going to respond publicly, but after the Local Government Commission took over the town finances Monday, I decided to let the truth be told.

As a reporter covering the Princeville beat, my job is to inform our readers of the decisions their elected officials are making, whether I like them or not.

Yes, I am, and I proudly say, from Princeville. As a matter of fact, I still live in the extra jurisdiction territory of the town. As such, I do have a vested interest in Princeville.

However, when I sit down at my desk to write stories about my beloved community, I put on my reporter’s hat and deal only with the facts concerning the topics about which I’m writing. Those facts are ones I’ve gathered through interviews, from covering the meetings or other investigative alternatives.  

But the mayor doesn’t agree with that. On many occasions, she has accused me of biased reporting. She said I have taken the side of commissioners Ann Howell and Gwen Knight versus herself and commissioners Isabelle Purvis-Andrews and Calvin Sherrod. She says  I’m against them and I only report the “bad news” that goes on in Princeville.

Maybe she doesn’t speak the same language as I, because I haven’t heard any good news concerning Princeville politics for quite some time now. And, if there was any inkling of good news, the bad news always overshadows it.

As a reporter, my job is to get both sides of the story by all means possible. Therefore, I have formed a good relationship with Howell and Knight and they give me information whenever I ask.

On several occasions, I’ve pleaded with the mayor, Purvis-Andrews and Sherrod to establish a working relationship, also. I ask them for comments, but they don’t respond. Therefore, when stories are printed, I have comments on only one side of the story and it may appear to be biased.

What else can I do?

I email the mayor questions and she refuses to even acknowledge that she receives them. Her claim is that she is too busy and I should give her more time to respond. It appears that she runs the town like a dictator — and wants to do the same with our coverage.

It doesn’t work that way mayor. As an elected official, you are obligated to inform your citizens about the welfare of the town. One method of doing that is through the media and not the self-promoted flyers called Princeville Progress Report that you produce monthly. That’s not the American way. The American way allows independent media sources to report on and investigate government and other entities to assure that stories are not dictated by the government. Imagine President Obama releasing Progress Reports concerning the affairs of the United States. Left out of those reports would likely be  our nation’s deficit, high unemployment, health insurance issues and so on and so forth.

Coincidentally, a college professor from China, Chen Kai, visited The Daily Southerner on Tuesday. She marveled over the American way and noted that in China, newspapers are run by the government. No matter what corruption may go on in China’s government, the dictatorship does not allow newspapers to print the wrongs. Imagine that.

Kai hopes to one day start a community newspaper in China. She understands that community newspapers keep government in check. Before she left, she made a comment that made me feel good about reporting on Princeville. She said, “Community newspaper makes Democracy work.”

Wow. That was powerful.

So mayor, don’t blame me for reporting the news. I’m doing my job by assuring Democracy is working in Princeville.

(Calvin Adkins is a staff writer for The Daily Southerner and may be reached at cadkins or by calling 823-3106.)