In response to recent comments in letters and editorials published in the Review pertaining to the village’s policy for communicating with the media, we have been asked to clarify exactly how the policy works for our readers.
This editorial is not the place for us to slam the village’s policy, as it should be obvious that any newspaper is opposed to restrictions on communication with the press. Instead, we will try to explain the policy as objectively as possible and allow readers to make up their own minds.
As anyone who reads our paper knows, we are not barred from interviewing department heads and village employees. Before conducting such an interview, however, we must get the permission of Village Administrator Michael Sturino. If we contact a department head without having checked with Sturino beforehand, that individual usually tells us that he has not received Sturino’s authorization to speak.
We cannot recall any recent cases in which Sturino has refused one of our requests to talk to a department head. Normally, we call him or leave him a message explaining why we need to talk to the employee, and he gets back to us relatively quickly with his OK.
The policy has occasionally delayed our completion of a story, but due to the time allowed by our weekly deadline, it has not prevented us from getting an article in the paper.
Sturino has told us that the reason for the policy is to ensure that we do not get quotes from the wrong employees for a given story or employees who are not fully familiar with the issues they’re talking to us about.
Essentially, he has said, he wants to ensure that employees know the “party line.”
This does raise a concern for us, as we’d like to feel confident that if an employee was inclined to speak out against the party line, they would feel free to do so.
After all, what the village sees as misinformation, our readers might see as differing opinion.
We’ve seen no evidence of Sturino or anyone else at village hall purposely stifling dissenting opinions that employees wished to communicate to us, and we do not believe it is their intention to do so.
Our concern is mostly related to the psychological effect of employees having to check with their boss before communicating with the press. We’re not sure that it is possible for employees to feel comfortable speaking their minds under these circumstances.
For now, the Review and the village have agreed to disagree on the policy. Of course, we still hope that at some point it will be eliminated.
A worthy cause
We would like to encourage our readers to assist with the latest in a series of generous efforts by Forest Park residents to reach out to victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Village Clerk Vanessa Moritz has donated use of a vacant house that she owns on the corner of Lathrop and Polk to a group of evacuees whose home was ruined by the hurricane.
The temporary residents include two women, one of whom has two boys aged 12 and 6.
They came to Forest Park with nothing, and are in need of everything from beds to cleaning products.
To donate, call village hall at (708) 366-2323 and ask for Ms. Moritz.