I’ve never written an opinion column in my life, but last Thursday, I read a villainous article slandering The Fort Stockton Pioneer and felt bothered enough to publish my own personal opinion on it. So here's my two cents, as kindly as I can present it.
The turmoil began with the most recent issue of The Monahans News. A Letter to The Editor was published in their paper that directly attacked The Pioneer and staff members thereof. The bold-lettered headline declared, “Reader unhappy with treatment by Stockton paper” and the article that followed took shots at both Publisher Pam Palileo and Managing Editor Lisa C. Hannon.
After reading the headline alone, I was extremely disappointed that the Monahans newspaper gave such a controversial submission an approval. For me, it just felt like a slap on the hand from our peer publication.
It was reminiscent of an upset customer complaining to a manager about an employee, where the manager affirms, “We'll take care of it”. Monahans News was the employer taking action on the customer's complaint, and the result was The Pioneer being scolded.
I could never imagine Pam or Lisa running a Letter to the Editor that throws another community newspaper under the bus. Why would we want to affect the readership of other papers? We're not that bloodthirsty in the newspaper industry – are we? Well, apparently, The Odessa American has also published a similar letter from our “unhappy reader” venting his anger towards us, although not as aggressive. What is going on here?
In last week's issue of The Alpine Avalanche, a picture was published on their sports page that I took for them as a favor. That’s how relationships between newspapers should be. We're supposed to back each other up! Moving past Monahan's headline, brace yourself for the hot rounds fired by the article.
This written assault was submitted by local Fort Stockton resident George Pitts. Last time I saw Mr. Pitts, he was yelling, “...child of Satan!!” and storming out of our office. That was October of last year during the nastiest election America has ever seen.
Mr. Pitts became enraged after The Pioneer declined running his political ad against Hillary Clinton, which was loaded with non-factual information. He wanted us to publish conspiracy theories.
The Pioneer offered to run his ad if he could provide supporting documentation, but his claims against Hillary could not hold any water. As a newspaper, we would have gotten into some serious trouble if we had run that ad.
His rebuttal in the Monahans News was that we let the Fort Stockton Democratic Party run a political ad comparing Trump to Hitler, and we let Lisa compare Trump to a two-year-old in her opinion column. Say it with me: opinion column.
Yes, we ran that ad. Pam and Lisa both verified the information before running it, and would have done the same for Mr. Pitts if he had solid citations behind it. In retort, Mr. Pitts writes, “So much for freedom of the press.”
I'd like to point out that we've granted him plenty of freedom of the press. In November of 2015, we ran Pitts' Letter To The Editor paired with an in-depth article, both catering to his 'Cops' Lives Matter' movement. They both ran in the same issue, and here's a quote from Mr. Pitts in my “Citizen promotes Cops' Lives Matter” article:
“A person who is anti-law enforcement does not have the sense that God gave to a brass monkey. If you can't see that law enforcement is for your protection, then you probably can't see the nose on your own face.”
Clearly, I could have omitted the insults, but I didn't. I granted him full freedom of the press. After Mr. Pitts writes about his political ad that was denied half a year ago, his latest Letter to the Editor takes a dark turn saying, “Only the death angel can change them.” Using the word ‘death’ regarding someone in any form is never okay. You shouldn't talk that way to anyone.
Another remark that really exploded off the page for me was his suggestion for us to “try Jesus!” Without going into theology, I'm pretty sure most Christians would agree that the core teaching of the Bible is love. Love God and love people – the two greatest commands, right?
There is actually no “death angel” found in the Bible; that concept actually suggests a Grim Reaper. Nonetheless, wishing such a specter toward someone will not give people the sense that you are walking with God.
I honestly forgive Smokey Briggs, the Monahans News, and George Pitts for this recent ambush on The Pioneer, but there are two sides to every story. This was just the male perspective from the newspaper accused of being “feminist liberals”.
The Pioneer is not just my bread and butter; it's my passion. We put a lot of hard work and time into creating an innovative newspaper each week that honors our community. To the readers, don't let their words sway you. If journalism is dead, we just left the casket.