I usually try to avoid writing any commentary on subjects for which I’ve contributed news stories.
I respect the clear line between opinion and news. Unfortunately, I’m in the unusual position — mostly because of the size of this newspaper and its staff — to find myself contributing both news and opinion pieces almost simultaneously each week. Obviously, again, I try to avoid mixing the two.
But, some news events are so, well, newsworthy, that they simply cannot avoid the addition of a little opinion.
That said, I am going to provide a response to a few of my detractors who felt it necessary to accuse me of committing several journalistic sins in my coverage of this month’s Shirley Matson/FBI controversy, an event to which I’ve attached the quaint title, “Packagegate.”
A few readers have accused me, and the Pahrump Valley Times, of reporting “Packagegate” out of some misplaced effort to embarrass or punish Nye County’s assessor, Shirley Matson.
That’s absurd and ignores the facts.
Several readers labeled the reporting “yellow journalism,” or editorializing the news. Several have accused the PVT of being a tool of the local “establishment” simply because we were lucky enough to scoop the other local news outlets in getting the “Packagegate” story.
That’s sad. Why? Because it ignores the fact that an elected official, one who has in the past been found guilty of violating state ethics laws, is back in the spotlight all of own volition. Yet, because we reported the story as any other newspaper would, the PVT is demonized by Matson’s supporters, many of whom use their extreme ideological beliefs to shield themselves from accepting reality.
Fact: Matson’s office was raided by the FBI.
Fact: Matson acknowledges taking a piece of mail that did not originate from her office, that was addressed to the FBI, and that was effectively the property of the US Postal Service, having been stamped and placed in a mail receptacle.
Fact: The FBI confiscated the assessor’s two work computers.
Fact: The assessor went on an email tirade, attacking several of her own employees by name, potentially violating all manner of county and state policies, not to mention federal law.
Fact: Matson held a press conference and blamed everyone for the incident but herself, taking no responsibility for her own actions at all.
These facts are not in dispute. The PVT did not force Matson to pilfer the county’s mail bin. The PVT did not ask the FBI to confiscate her computers. The PVT did not force Matson to excoriate her own workers, public service employees, via email. Yet, we are on a “witch hunt,” we are out to “get her.”
But here’s some more facts that might make those who believe this fantasy take a hard look at their version of reality. If the PVT was truly on some “witch hunt,” why are we not making endless records requests of Matson, her public emails, her phone records at work, her county credit card statements?
We certainly could do that, to any elected official.
Why have we never reported that Matson can’t seem to pass — despite a few tries — the state’s property appraiser test? After all, she’s the county’s chief property appraiser, or is supposed to be. She can’t pass the test, it would appear. If the PVT were truly on a witch hunt, why would that little fact go unreported? Maybe it’s because she’s at least trying to pass. And for that, there’s leeway.
Sure, when Matsongate 2011 broke with her playing immigration official and getting caught in the ringer for it, we certainly editorialized, blasted and engaged in a scorched earth campaign against the assessor. We did. Why? I personally have a distaste for any elected official, Democrat, Republican, Socialist, Tea Partier, or any affiliation who dares make public any prejudice against any class of citizens, white, black, Hispanic or whatever. That’s why. And that will never change so long as I’m here.
Packagegate is different. I won’t be calling for any recalls or writing any front page editorials. I’ll let the facts speak for themselves. And if some readers can’t see the facts through the filter of their own political ideology, or simply choose to ignore reality, well then I can’t help them.