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As Long as We Remember...

September 30, 2003

Constitutional Guarantees Carry Responsibilities, Too!

Mike Kuster

The Frederick News Post has upped the ante. It now appears to be the policy of Frederick’s “community newspaper” to attack the character of private citizens in the news and the opinion pages.

This week, The Frederick News Post chose to attack Becky Brashear, executive assistant of The Great Frederick Fair. The paper credited Ms. Brashear with a very un-friendly quote. In the quote, she supposedly demonstrated a lack of compassion for a family left behind by the carnival after the fair.

I have known Becky and her family for years. She became the executive assistant of The Great Frederick Fair while I worked for the University of Maryland’s 4-H Youth Development Program. As a result, we worked closely on fair-related programs.

While Becky and I have had our differences in the past (as all people will), I know with absolute certainty that she did not make the comment attributed to her. She is one of the most professional, compassionate individuals I’ve had the pleasure with which to work. She would never do or say anything to hurt any child, including carnies.

The asinine quote and comments made by The Frederick News Post amount to little more than a cheap personal attack on the character of someone who has contributed more to this community than anyone sitting at 200 East Patrick Street.

Not only have they attacked someone who volunteers and gives to this community, they have attacked a private citizen. Becky is not an elected official. She has never run for office. She is a woman trying to do her job and do the best she can to make her community a better place to live. She is trying to promote agriculture. She has always - and will continue - to promote programs to help children.

To their credit, The Frederick News Post allowed Ms. Brashear, their former reporter, a large space to make her case to the public. She explained everything to a Tee. She answered questions I had from the original article. The questions that a good reporter and paper would have had answered in the original article. Things like:

In what context did Becky Brashear make this comment?

Becky explained that the police and DSS would not tell her anything about the family. This is true with any such case. When asked a question by the reporter, she had no idea the family was stranded. She had no idea that DSS was investigating a possible neglect case. She just thought there was a family waiting for the next caravan to come through to take them to the next fair.

If the father has money for a cab, why doesn’t he just get his family home?

Becky explained that she offered to pay for a ride home. The police would not allow them to leave.

Unfortunately, the management of our local paper chose to use the space next to Ms. Brashear’s comments to not only attack her, but to ask her employer to fire her. Now, the paper is not only ruining reputations, but also seeking to deny them their livelihood.

What makes this worse than the usual attacks coming from The News-Post? It is that Roy Meachum is not the culprit of this attack. In fact, the attackers turn out to be the editorial staff and publisher. These individuals shape and mold the news that this community reads.

They have continually and flagrantly disregarded the responsibility given to them by citizens and the Constitution of The United States of America. The Constitution allows for freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Those freedoms, however, come with a large responsibility. That responsibility requires the press to provide unbiased, factual reporting.

Just as freedom of speech does not protect anyone who cries fire in a crowded theater, freedom of press does not protect The Frederick News Post from misquoting, fictional reporting, and character assassinations.

Since this paper was purchased by the Randall family, it has attacked many individuals. Here are just a few:

The editors and reporters at The Frederick News Post owe Becky Brashear, her family, and this community a very large apology.

This community deserves a lot better in news.

That is why I am boycotting The Frederick News Post. There is no room in this community, or in journalism, for such a paper.

That is why I am reading and advertising in the free, well-written, and well-edited Gazette.

That is why I am writing for and read The Tentacle daily.

I hope you’ll join me. If you subscribe to The Frederick News Post, cancel your subscription and send the money to a non-profit of your choice. Let me know about your donation and I’ll publish it (I won’t print any names just the non-profits benefiting from our boycott).

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