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Beyond the Grapevine

A LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIFTON GAZETTE

This has been sent to The Tifton Gazette as a Letter to the Editor by Tifton Grapevine Publisher Frank Sayles Jr.:

Last Sunday's Tifton Gazette left me scratching my head. I was the subject of a front-page article that claimed my publishing an article in last Friday's Tifton Grapevine put me "in question" because of my role as a city councilman, a position I had held for two weeks at the time.
 
The Tifton Grapevine is a local electronic newspaper with thousands of email subscribers. The article, written by my wife, Bonnie, who is a former Charleston newspaper reporter/editor and magazine editor, was about a civil lawsuit filed against the City of Tifton and a local funeral home over a crematory being constructed in the city.
 
The Gazette editor, Angye Morrison, is questioning whether I have a "conflict of interest" because I published that article, supposedly because as a council member I was notified the day after the suit had been filed.
 
What the Gazette is not telling you is that nearly two months before I assumed my council duties, I had heard that the suit was going to be filed. I heard this by talking to people in the community -- something a good journalist does. For about six weeks, I was keeping an eye on when the suit was going to be filed so we could report it to the community.
 
And once it was filed, it's public record. I knew it was coming before I became a city councilman. If the Gazette had done their job, they also would have known it was coming.
 
So, Miss Morrison is alleging that I may have made some sort of ethical breach by publishing an article about a public matter. The Gazette says I have been "questioned" about this. 
 
Questioned by whom? Well, by the Gazette, specifically Miss Morrison.
 
And why? It is obvious that the Gazette is irked by the Tifton Grapevine frequently publishing news and advertising that the Gazette doesn't have. During the past month, the Tifton Grapevine has gone from a Friday-only to a Tuesday and Friday electronic publication. Apparently, this is threatening to the Gazette.
 
I have friends at the Gazette who are good, hard-working people, but unfortunately The Tifton Gazette is a mere shell of what it once was, primarily because of economic forces. Newspapers across the nation are facing similar issues.
 
I am saddened to see the shrinking of The Tifton Gazette; it's facing tough days. But that's no excuse to lash out at someone whom they see as a competitor. If they wish to criticize some decision I make in my capacity as a city councilman, well, that's fair game.
 
To fabricate an issue and publish it as “news” on the front page of a newspaper and then write an editorial that I have committed “a breach of trust” is quite another. It is self-serving on their part and misleading the public.
 
I have always endeavored to operate with honesty and integrity. Those who know me would agree.
 
The Gazette’s actions are unbecoming and unprofessional.
 
Frank Sayles Jr.
Tifton, Ga.