One of many reasons we open our Wednesday news meetings to the public is to gather story ideas from attendees. The people who show up oftentimes come just to relay a story idea or two — concerns of their’s or other newsworthy events.
For a couple of news meetings in a row, we heard from more than one person that Mountain Community Patrol is considering dissolving. These people are members of the group. The issue, they said, evolved because members are aging and new people are failing to step up and take over the volunteer duties.
Our correspondent, Debra Varnado, offered to attend their next meeting and cover the issue to bring awareness of it to the community.
She did so, covering the meeting and the discussions about this issue that occurred at the meeting. She also recorded it.
Many weeks after we published the story, MCP took umbrage with the coverage and composed a letter to the editor objecting to the question of dissolving. I ran that letter last week.
One member accused Debra of misrepresenting herself, saying she had come to the meeting to volunteer, not report.
Then, when I had the opportunity, I listened to the entire recording of the meeting and the discussion afterward. It was quite clear when people were introducing themselves to the new Sheriff’s Department representative during the meeting that Debra was reporting for the TC. Another MCP member introduced her as such.
Throughout the meeting, MCP members expressed concerns to the law enforcement officer about continuing the organization and how to get new people on board. The issue truly was one of whether MCP can continue.
Only after the meeting, during an informal discussion, did one member shout out that they were not going to dissolve. That was one member after the meeting, so that was not an official decision.
Nothing in the story is misleading or incorrect.
Debra is a freelance reporter for us. She has an impressive background in journalism and has written excellent stories for us since coming aboard last November.
But she said she will not go back to another MCP meeting. I do not blame her.
A similar thing happened to me with another group in town years ago. I had to return to the meetings, but I was not a freelance reporter.
I think what MCP did was dishonest in an attempt to make themselves look good. Otherwise, why would they throw Debra and the TC under the bus?
Becky Clark, Editor