Asking the New Paltz Times for help
I sent an email to Deb Alexsa, editor of the New Paltz Times, on December 26, 2009:
I can't recall if you covered this in any depth back when the District Shared Decision Making Committee was contemplating its belly buttons, but this might be a good time to consider a piece about Edgar Rodriguez' legal actions against the NP school district.
The files on his civil suit, as well as the content of a Commissioner's Hearing that related to the Committee, are available in Bev Cleary's office. They spent considerable time stripping out the non-FOILable information, so I'd love to see someone get some use from it.
I decided that the cases (the civil suit is still ongoing) were too complex to touch upon in my blog.My response came shortly thereafter when Mike Townsend interviewed me about the topic. I didn't know much, but Mike later told me that he'd interviewed many people and wrote (if I recall correctly) a six-page feature story about the lawsuit, which publisher Geddy Sveikauskas decided not to run.
The Middle School issue came and went, and here we are in a School Board election with Edgar running. I sent Deb another email on April 30:
I know that Mike Townsend researched a feature piece about Edgar Rodriguez' school district related lawsuits, and that it was ultimately shelved. Not knowing what the story covered, I would very much like to see it in print now. If I had been aware of even the small amount of info I've reviewed myself, it may have changed my vote in Edgar's last run, and I would like the rest of the citizens of New Paltz to have the opportunity to review it through the practiced eye of a trained investigative journalist.
Would it be possible to let me know if the piece could be updated and included in the next issue or, if not, a specific reason for not running it?
If Ulster Publishing elects not to publish the article, perhaps it could be made available to another publication?
Thanks for letting me know.
Terence P WardI got no response, when in the past Deb has always replied to me quickly (even when my emails were less than complimentary). I waited until the next paper came out and, seeing the story wasn't there, I sent a letter to the editor:
Edgar Rodriguez is willing to ask the tough questions, and it's a trait to be valued. What's not clear to me is whether or not he is also willing to answer the tough questions, because nobody is willing to ask him any. It never comes up at School Board meetings, and the New Paltz Times buried the story. All I know is that there's a six-inch-high stack of papers at the district office that relate to his lawsuit against the district - and that's only including what they're legally required to provide to the public.
I was hoping the New Paltz Times would run the story on this ongoing legal action some time ago, because I can't make heads or tails of it and I think it's information that we should all have in front of us as we make our decision on May 18. Maybe the details about the lawsuit will make Edgar a more appealing candidate for some of us; others may find that a full understanding doesn't sway their poll decision in the slightest.
All I'm asking is an open discussion about the nature of this lawsuit so that we can make an informed decision about this candidate. Is that unreasonable?
Terence P Ward
New PaltzThis time Deb replied to me almost immediately:
Mike wrote this story some time ago and our publisher dealt with it because I was on vacation. When I returned, he said it wasn’t worth running and not to put any extra time into it. Why doesn’t someone just ask him the question at candidate’s night? I can’t run your letter because it is the week before the election and negative letters about candidates are not allowed.
DebMaybe someone would ask at candidate's night, I mused, but I was looking for broader coverage. My reply:
Honestly, Deb, if you had given me this same response as quickly to my inquiry about the story, I wouldn't have bothered with the letter. How about I remove reference to the specific candidate and issues, and send in a letter asking why the publisher deemed a six-page feature story on why one of our district trustees is suing the district not worth running?
If Geddy is going to make controversial decisions, he should at least benefit from the publicity the way Rupert Murdoch does. If you tell me directly not to waste my time, that's fine too - no need to ask the question if it won't make print.Her reply was short:
Not sure what you mean about your inquiry about the story. I wouldn’t run the letter this week.Maybe I was unclear, but I was asking for a way to frame the letter so that it didn't appear to be picking on a candidate. Or, as I said to my wife who teaches journalism, "Why can't we write a story that covers every candidate that is currently suing the school board?"
I'm still looking for answers on Edgar, why he is pressing this lawsuit and how he feels he can be impartial in this situation - if he does. I have a lot of opinions about Edgar's hopes and plans, but all I want to know now is why the New Paltz Times and its parent Ulster Publishing continue to bury a perfectly good story. Rumor has it that Mike Townsend pitched a different angle to Geddy again this week but it was again quashed (I have not spoken to Mike so I can't confirm that).
If anyone is interested, contact the District Information Officer Bev Sickler to arrange to look at the publicly-available lawsuit documents. Copies of pages are a quarter each but you can look as much as you like for free if you fill out a Freedom of Information request.