Opinion Piece By Samuel Strait – May 25, 2018 – As I prepared to go on air for my weekly program “Conversations with Sam”, KFUG 101.1 FM from 3 to 4 pm every Sunday, I found myself embroiled in the midst of a conversation of another sort between Mr. Jake Smith, my guest interview for the segment, and station owner and manager Mr. Paul Critz. The thrust of the conversation was that Mr. Smith felt he had been maligned by Mr. Critz in a Facebook post, where Mr. Critz had accused Mr. Smith of not having the courage, a much more civilized word than “stones”, to attend a candidates forum the previous weekend put on by local youth. I have to say, I was too a bit mystified by what was taking place, but elected to find out a bit more before speaking to the incident. This is what I have learned.
Following the incident at the KFUG studio on Sunday, the local newspaper, The Triplicate, printed an article by Jessica Cejnar, “Challengers no show at forum put on by youth”, May 22,2018, which began with the organizers detailing their efforts to organize a candidate form for the youth of Del Norte County following a workshop on social justice primarily for the LGBTQ community and other disenfranchised groups in the opinion of the organizers. The article implies that the challengers to incumbents, Gerry Hemminsen and Chris Howard in County’s Districts 3 and 4, were a “no show” as a sign of disrespect towards our local youth and what ever other disparaging thoughts might be injected into the article. The piece continued with an account of the two incumbent’s responses to three questions posed in the forum by the small number of young adults in attendance and a further question allowing the two to talk about what they felt was their greatest achievement while in office. I won’t bore you with the prepared canned responses by incumbents as they are readily available in the Triplicate for those that still happen to read the print newspaper. Just a hint, not very inspiring from two elected official wanting to be re elected.
Moving on, the first “red flag” that appeared both in the Cejnar article and Paul Critz’s Facebook post was no mention or faintest curiosity as to why four distinct and unique individuals, challengers in a local Supervisorial race, would be missing at a campaign event designed to give them more exposure to the community as a whole? Further, Why would any reporter worthy of that title, or editor for that matter, not make an effort to confirm the claims made in the article by one of the event’s organizer, Rachel Patterson, that each candidate had indeed been sent an email one month prior to the event with only one response, and a follow up phone call three weeks prior to the event? I suspect that would require too much journalist integrity , something we have learned not to expect from our local Triplicate. One should be able to recall that same dubious behavior out of the Triplicate’s reporting prior to the fall 2016 Supervisor’s races.
As it stands, it was a fairly simple matter to call each of the challengers and ask the following questions:
1. Were you aware of the Social Justice Summit on Saturday May 19th?
2. Were you invited either by email, phone, text or voice mail?
3. If so, did you accept the invitation?
4. Were there any extenuating circumstances that would have prevented attendance?
5. If so, was any attempt made to inform the organizers?
I am sure that there are other questions that could have been asked, but that to me was the heart of the matter. I will point out that each of the challengers was reached, easily, I might add by phone, offered apologies to the organizers for not being in attendance as well as an explanation as to what happened. I , also, would like to offer some advice to the organizers of the event, being it was their first effort, and any other organizers. People, particularly busy people are not always going to respond to an unsolicited emails and the “no response” that these particular organizers experienced is not all that uncommon and should be a heads up to them that more effort will be required. Voicemails, texts, and Social media, particularly three weeks in advance of an event is not the best way to insure attendance. A direct phone call, where you actually speak with the intended, with a follow up phone call shortly before the event is perhaps the best method in most circumstances, but not all. The Social Justice Summit organizers were likely fortunate to get anyone to appear unless there was a personal connection, which should be clearly evident in what has transpired since the event.
In response to the above questions which at the very least the Triplicate should have asked and had answered before publishing, are in order of the candidate being questioned.
Dave Mason responded that he was aware of the Summit. He was invited by phone and accepted the invitation with the intent to appear. Shortly prior to the event he experienced extenuating circumstances, illness, and was unable to attend or notify the organizers. Absolutely no excuses were offered and apologies were extended to the organizers.
Jake Smith responded that he had not received any emails, texts, phone calls or voicemails from the organizers to the best of his knowledge. Was not invited to his knowledge and therefore was unable to attend. He also pointed out that he had attended three previous forums and would have been happy to attend had the organizers actually made contact with him asking for his participation. He likewise extended his apologies to the organizers.
Roger Daley was unaware of the Summit in any form or any attempts by the organizers to contact him. He did acknowledge that he may have overlooked an email, but stated that he had no texts, voicemails or phone calls from the organizers asking for his participation. Further he stated that he would have been unable to attend in any event as he had a previously long standing engagement. He also extended his apologies to the organizers.
Ron Philipps was aware of the Summit. He was invited by phone and accepted the invitation to attend. Through a series of unfortunate timing conflicts, he missed the event and was unable to attend. He was unable to inform the organizers of this lapse and extended his apologies as well.
The end result is as you can see some what different than the organizers, Mr. Critz, and Jessica Cejnar of the Triplicate have it portrayed, and this was not unexpected. While no real harm has been done, and the organizers have been apologized too, one can only hope that lessons have been learned. I fully expect that the Triplicate will continue its opinion driven coverage of events in Del Norte County and this venue will continue to grow in its readership as it has in order to gain a full perspective of important local events.
Chose wisely and Vote on June 5th.