Voice of the people: Joe Dillon




Feels positive city news is buried


The Commercial Dispatch continues to exert great effort to bury positive information concerning the City of Columbus. The initiative is on-going from this newspaper, and a page one story published Wednesday, continued the effort. Good news on the city's financial condition was buried halfway into the article and was never mentioned until the story jumped to an inside page.


Tuesday night, Mayor Robert Smith presented citizens and the City Council an outstanding financial report that highlighted $2.4 million in savings in eight months. He also showed a cash balance that swung from $71,000 in the red to $1.2 million in the black when compared to one year ago.



No less than three editorials in this newspaper have called upon the city to make financial changes. On March 12, 2019: "City officials must examine the budget and scrutinize every expenditure to find ways to cut costs, and they must approach this with the sense of urgency it demands," you wrote.


The city has done that quite successfully, but the effort to disparage our city officials is relentless. Letters-to-the-editor and other editorials have asked the city to be transparent and accountable. We have done that. The Mayor, City Council, department heads, and City employees have taken significant successful steps, "...with the urgency it demands." But you would not know that from the article.


Instead, the news story concentrated on LED street light upgrades for the first two-thirds of the article. The article was 599 words long; the financial news not mentioned until 441 words into the read.


Let's be "transparent" with one another. With Commercial Dispatch staff making editing decisions concerning coverage of the City of Columbus while also refusing to talk to city officials and referring calls to lawyers, this is a one-sided attack that benefits no one; especially your readers.


Your readers are not naive. The decision to slant the story away from the good financial news is obvious. For a newspaper editorial staff that can turn out an editorial in minutes, the lack of an uplifting word on the good news in Wednesday's editorial page was noticeable.


Those of us that live and work in Columbus can see the effort made in this newspaper to praise the City of Starkville in everything they do. The bias toward Starkville is staggering that appears in the Columbus newspaper.


We have lost hope for coverage of significant positive news such as this financial story. Throw us a bone in this Sunday's Roses and Thorns column. We deserve something...not sure what it will be.


Joe Dillon


City of Columbus Public Information Officer



Peter Imes responds: Dillon makes reference to this paper's refusal to talk to city officials. That is misleading. The Dispatch's Managing Editor, Zack Plair, is currently in a legal proceeding with the city. To help prevent a conflict of interest, Plair is not directly involved in reporting on city stories. Until the legal matter is resolved, he is avoiding communicating with city sources. I have clearly communicated this arrangement to Dillon on multiple occasions. We have also made it clear other newsroom staff is always available to discuss the city. Plair is, on occasion, one of multiple editors who reviews stories about the city, and we disclose that conflict when it occurs.




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