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April 19, 2024

“Wrong Side of History” – Primer on local reporting –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On January 29, 2016


One hundred and eighty-five years ago, in 1831 William Lloyd Garrison began publishing “The Liberator” when he returned to New England. He realized what he must do, in order to spread the word of the anti-slavery movement.

Due to his publishing, he faced harsh resistance, which included felony indictments in North Carolina, and a reward offered of $1,500 to anyone who could identify the paper’s distributors in South Carolina.

In his first publication, he wrote a letter entitled “To The Public” in which he laid out the reasoning, purpose, and tone of what the publication would become. In part, as taken from PBS, is this letter (read complete letter here):

I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; – but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest – I will not equivocate – I will not excuse – I will not retreat a single inch – AND I WILL BE HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.”

Of course Garrison’s letter was written about slavery, and we in no way mean to compare anything with that sad chapter in American history. More importantly though, it was written about the civil right to inform others, and to use printing presses in a way to bring about change. We do state that it applies equally to other instances where individual apathy and indifference have crept in, and solidified their place.

When the rights of the people to petition their government for redress are met with fierce opposition by the very institutions whose livelihood is dependent upon that right, we find ourselves in the unenviable position of taking up the pen and paper to ensure truth is available for those who wish to read.

In one fleeting moment, a few years ago, we were proud to witness a reporter stand up and voice his opinion at a county board meeting. I said fleeting, because it was a one-time event we believe was met with opposition fierce enough to keep it from ever happening again. Sadly, refusal to stand up for Right and Truth only feeds the nare-doers.

That particular time in Paris’ history, had only one newspaper. We had the good fortune of adding a second one which was published once per month. The amount of push-back, threats and intimidation not only to ourselves, but to those who dared to sell it in their storefronts, was tremendous…and shameful. We had to take a stand.

For those who held the perceived power locally, keeping the secrets of “The Good Old Boys” was of the utmost importance, even more important than the right to publish and sell a monthly newspaper. Sadly, a temporary victory was had by them. It took close to two years to bring the monthly newspaper back to Paris where it currently is.

Currently, Paris has a weekly newspaper who wishes to take pot-shots at us at every chance they get. Using disparaging words like “so-called”, “self-proclaimed”, “FOIA abuse”, etc. only show their weaknesses. It also gives us the opportunity to write what will be published in the coming days.

Purposely whitewashing the affairs of local government does no one any good, in fact, it harms. Parroting what local officials tell you without any proof of its truthfulness can only inflict harm. It breeds a culture of apathy. Apathy breeds a culture of corruption.

Using the excuse of “we’ve always done it that way” no longer works as good as it used to in Edgar County government. We intend to eliminate that phrase.

Those who fail to take a stand for right, truth, and justice, are on the wrong side of history.

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  • G. Barraclough
    Posted at 05:48h, 30 January

    The time is always right to do what’s right
    -Martin Luther King

  • marykaybarton
    Posted at 07:59h, 30 January

    Well said!

  • G. Barraclough
    Posted at 08:01h, 30 January

    With respect to the crimes and misdemeanors at the College of DuPage, where was the Daily Herald, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune (at least initially) and the investigative units of the Chicago TV stations? Not to even mention the Auditor General of the State of Illinois.

    Why did it take a couple of Southern Illinois hayseeds who are 200 miles away to start the ball rolling and keep the pressure on to get to where we are now after 2 years of their work? Just think, if they were professionals, it might have taken 5-6 years, or maybe never happened.

    Are they just some kind of wannabe journalists or
    alleged investigators?

    Notwithstanding parochialism, as demonstrated by their hometown newspaper you are never a prophet in your own land.