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By Donna Westfall – June 5, 2016 – Remember when you could write a 400 word Letter to the Editor at the Triplicate? Remember when they didn’t change your words or meaning or context or ask you to tone it down?  Do you know why they only allow one Letter to Editor per person per month?

I was talking to Samuel Strait the other day.  He’s been a prolific writer of Letters to Editor for years, but no longer at least to the Triplicate.  Here’s what’s happening per Samuel:

“Over the course of the last year or so we have had to adjust to the whims of two different editors at the local newspaper, the Triplicate, each with his own shifting practices and policies, but no real consistency.  Previous to the latest pair, I have been a regular contributor to the paper in the form of Letters to the Editor and the Coastal Voices of which I think I can only recall once that a minor change was asked of me by past editors.  Since Mr. Durkee and Mr. Fornoff have been elevated to chief of the editorial board, granted Mr. Durkee’s tenure was relatively short lived, it would appear that censorship rather than editorship has become the form of the day.  If there were some consistency to Mr. Fornoff’s handling of his duties, it would make writing letters to the editor a humanly possible task.  However;  that does not appear to be in Mr. Fornoff’s arsenal of editorial excuses for why certain letters are acceptable while others are not.    

In addition to his moving target of policies for what is acceptable, he seems to be able to define various words to suit his particular side of the argument without any concern for the realities that surround each particular situation.  In an earlier letter (rejected by Mr. Fornoff) which since has been published by the editor of the Crescent City Times, Mr. Fornoff found the mild criticism of one of his news writers constituted ‘Bullying.’  The actual intent of the letter was meant to show the differences between what the writer of the article wrote, having not attended the particular meeting, but relying on a taped version, and what was really going on that was not captured by the tape.  Having actually attended the meeting, I had the opportunity to witness a great deal of the activity behind the camera which changed the whole context of what was going on before the camera.   Mr. Fornoff, in his zeal to ‘protect’ his ‘defenseless’ news warrior showed complete disregard for what was news in order to protect his writer’s entirely slanted version, not news but narrative.

What also should be of some concern to Mr. Fornoff and his new policies of 300 word letters and thirty day gaps between letters, is that he has effectively eliminated the possibility of coherent discussion of local issues.  In its place, of what little can be found of local interest on the editorial page, are a few rather short on facts, often stilted letters, pushing an agenda which just may not be shared by all.  Responses to those letters, depending of course on Mr. Fornoff’s shifting sets of ‘STRICT POLICIES’ may or may not appear without changes insisted upon by Mr. Fornoff.   It is this kind of heavy handed editing that has led Mr. Fornoff’s Triplicate down the path of irrelevancy.

In his current rush to protect ‘a private citizen’ from the brutal lash of my ‘personal attack’ he has chosen to ignore the point of my letter by asking me to edit my comments about a local retiree who has chosen to become a very public figure through his letters to the editor, manipulation of various commissions and boards, and becoming involved in the tainting of a very public Grand Jury Report.  It is thus we have come to the most recent version of Mr. Fornoff’s censorship of a letter that I had written about a recent letter to the editor by Mr. Brian Stone equated several previous letters discussing Martha McClure’s recent travails as “Cheap Political Theater”, at which time he was going to set the record straight.

The Letter that was submitted is as follows:  I often wonder if writers of letters to the editor truly think that what they write has any bearing on the truth.  An example comes to mind written recently by Brian Stone, who casts recent letters to the editor and Triplicate articles about incumbent supervisor, Martha McClure, as ‘cheap political theater.’  He goes on to talk about poor managers, Sutter Health, and our local lack of an economy.  During the course of his diatribe he makes liberal use of the term, truth, and concludes his letter with examples from Martha’s twenty year record as supervisor, none of which have made much of a difference solving his contention that we have a poor economy.

That aside, some of the burning questions I might have if I were a McClure supporter would be, how is it you can claim to know so little about people who donate $500 to your reelection campaign who come from out of the area?  And how many more similar donations exist from 2012 and your current campaign?  Is there a connection between these contributions and some big moneyed consultant or developer?  Are there other nights spent at private homes owned by consultants or developers instead of at hotels?  Why would you be so angry about being questioned about such activities in which the answer was yes to both assertions if it was all so harmless?  Of course that is just me, knowing something of Martha’s history both before her political career and during.

I can only assume that Mr. Stone and his search for the truth might also be willing to drive off a cliff, not with Ms. McClure, but for her.  Political theater it might be, but it would appear that there might be more to the story should anyone care to do the research. 

After submitting this letter to Mr. Fornoff, I received a return e-mail from him asking me to ‘tone it down with less reference to Mr. Stone’  and focus on McClure.  I can only guess that he was so bound up in interpreting my comments that the point of including Mr. Stone’s  letter as an example was totally missed in his rush to judgement.  He generously offered to print it on Saturday if I edited and resubmitted by noon Friday.  So I am left to believe that because Mr. Fornoff has identified Mr. Stone as a ‘private individual’ that his letter is sacrosanct and unassailable.  I am left with the undeniable feeling that it is Mr. Fornoff’s interpretation of personal attacks on private individuals that is skewed.  I cannot find any where in my comments that I have labeled Mr. Stone anything but perhaps misguided.  I find it difficult to believe that there is anything that could be considered a ‘personal attack.’  So I am left with the only conclusion that can be made, which is that if Mr. Fornoff’s personal weather vane is triggered, only then do my words become a ‘personal attack.’  Mr. Fornoff might be advised to take a long look at some of the other letters that he has found acceptable.  Only then will he perhaps realize how foolish his reasoning is. 

Of course there is always the possibility that censorship is at the heart of the matter.”   

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