VICKSBURG, Miss. (Vicksburg Daily News)–Today a “member of the community” in a leadership role pulled me aside and wanted to know what I had against the school district.
I asked them to clarify what they meant and they pointed out the number of stories I had done on the school district and its issues. They said that they thought I was hurting the community and that I should be someone who builds up the school district instead of tearing it down. They said the district was a “small city” and that surely we understand they will have problems. Why report them?
Vicksburg Warren School district, Christi Kilroy, let us in so we can report the good news too. Why not let us in? Is there something you don’t want us to see?
Regardless, I was polite to the “member of the community” and pointed out that the district losing its bond rating is a big deal and should be reported. Losing their accreditation with the state was a big deal and it should be reported. Not responding to questions from the community was a big deal and it should be reported. The superintendent of a “D” district getting a raise to $190,000 was newsworthy. That teachers not getting paid on time, for whatever reason, was a newsworthy story. That teachers were being told they were going to be paid on July 15 but…
Full disclosure – I was a big fan of the school district and thought they were doing a great job. I even helped them get that school bond passed a couple of years ago. It was a good idea and I stand behind that effort. Our kids and our teachers deserve decent facilities. When we reported the superintendent’s pay increase and the community went crazy, I was shocked. I honestly thought most everyone was a big fan of the improvements with the district and thought the district was on track. The response from the community was decidedly not in favor of the school district and not in favor of the superintendent.
So the Vicksburg Daily News, as a newspaper should, followed up the story and wanted to give the district a chance to respond to some of the criticisms. We came up with a group of questions from the readers and teachers for the School Board. The Board chose not to respond. Again the response from social media – you – was massive and not a bit favorable.
Not only that, the response from educators themselves was mind-boggling. They are scared to speak to the media for fear of losing their jobs. We have encouraged them to reach out to us via their personal email. The number of responses and the things they said has encouraged us that we are on the right path by holding the District accountable. “Keep reporting, don’t stop looking” was the most oft-repeated phrase to me.
So, Vicksburg, we will continue to report the news despite some “members of the community” in a leadership role who think they know what is best for the rest of us. It is what a real newspaper does.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been “talked to” by a “member of the community” in a leadership role who, apparently, knows what is best for the rest of us. In 2019 the leadership of the police department would not speak with the Vicksburg Daily News, nor would they answer our questions or return our calls. I was told by several “members of the community” in leadership roles that crime was no higher than it had been and we were only hurting the community by reporting the crime.
In response Vicksburg said “Hold my beer,” and crime went off the charts. Literally, two days after another media outlet announced crime was not a problem in Vicksburg we were putting up photos of Vicksburg Police officers riding the back of pickups with their rifles drawn looking for trouble makers. Over the next month, the number of crime stories went off the charts. We reported them all.
At the end of that month, the city changed its tune and opened up communications with us. We still reported the crime stories but with more follow-up from the city.
Now, with the school district, here we go again. “Members of the community” are trying to paint our stories as somehow tainted and not accurate. They say things like “social media reports” as though the people on social media – you and me – are not worth hearing. It is difficult to not notice that almost all the people defending the district in the comments in our stories are almost all making money off the district.
Not unlike with the police department in 2019, we are currently in a similar situation where communications with the school district are tense and getting the full story is a challenge. Regardless, we are going to report the news, be it good, bad or any other way.
At the Vicksburg Daily News we work for you, the people. Others can tell whatever stories they chose and paint whatever picture they choose. At the Vicksburg Daily News we want you, the reader, to decide if reporting all the news, not just the corporate (and school district) approved version, is worth it.
So far your response has been massive and loud. Keep it up. One day it may get loud enough that the elected members of the School Board hear you too.
“There are three estates in our form of government – the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial. But the most powerful of all is the fourth estate – the press.” – David DaySee a typo? Report it here.