I value the press and the protections afforded it under our state and federal Constitutions. A free press keeps people informed, holds public officials accountable and ultimately protects our democracy. Like many, I have come to value our community newspaper, The Laconia Daily Sun, and appreciate its commitment to professional journalism — even if it means their journalists or editors are criticizing me or fellow council members. I respect the professional press who let the facts determine the story and readers can then form their own opinions. I also respect the editors who through due diligence rely on fully vetted facts when sharing their opinions. This after all is the responsibility of a free, credible press.
Unfortunately, in last week’s edition, an editorial was printed that was factually deficient, challenged my character and that of city councilors and lacked a level of professionalism that’s expected from our community newspaper.
Over the last 10 years I’ve submitted columns and letters to The Sun. I always send them personally to the editors — without any intermediary. Uncharacteristically, someone I’ve never met or communicated with, contacted The Sun indicating an opinion column was forthcoming from me. That should’ve been an immediate red flag! Had Sun Editor Roger Carroll reached out to me, I’d have told him unequivocally that I did not, nor did I intend to, write or sign on to a political opinion column.
I speak with Mr. Carroll or his writers frequently and without hesitation. They have my email and phone number. I always return their calls and when appropriate offer quotes, background information and context. Up until last week we had a very good, arm’s length, professional relationship built on respect for each other’s responsibilities. For a newspaper whose motto is “Seeking the truth and printing it,” Mr. Carroll’s efforts fell woefully short. If Mr. Carroll had completed basic due diligence (i.e. fact check and verify) the facts would have determined the story. Instead it appears the assumptions he made and the editorial he sought to write were more important than verifying the facts.
Let me also respond to Mr. Carroll’s characterization of the City Council as only informing the public when we want to “soak” them for more money. As we’ve become accustomed to on social media, why let facts stand in the way when you’re desperate to use a tired simile? As most residents know, Laconia is a tax cap city and spending is set by formula. Our budgeting process is thorough, transparent and open to the public. Public hearings for this year’s budget began in May. Our 14th consecutive cap-compliant budget was voted on in public and passed in July. In my experience city staff and councilors are not only professionally competent, but also acutely aware of property tax implications when crafting a responsible and balanced budget. Assuming otherwise and implying underhandedness is a cheap shot at dedicated public employees (many of whom live in Laconia) and councilors who are conscientious and care deeply about our community.
We who choose public service are not above criticism. It comes with the territory and most of us understand how important public feedback is to upholding our responsibilities. Vigorous, issue focused debate is healthy for our community and our democracy. Mr. Carroll your use of clever pejorative terms, allegations of political opportunism and fact-lite mischaracterizations of me and our City Council strikes me as “social media journalism.” You’re writing for a serious community newspaper, not an amateurish online blog. I would suggest sticking to verified facts and appreciating professional responsibility also accompanies freedom of the press.
Remembering this and applying it would better serve you, your paper and our community.
Andrew Hosmer is mayor of the City of Laconia.