What to put on the front page is a big decision every day – one in which readers often disagree.
In an email, one woman objected to our lead story, "VIVA! tied to Chicago group," on Nov. 20. This was about the connections between the VIVA! Performing Arts School in Dixon and its funder, the Chicago-based Canterbury Foundation. Both have the same president, Curt Schmitt.
VIVA! has seen two of its employees arrested in connection with accusations of sexual abuse of a student. Police have issued a warrant for Schmitt's arrest.
"Would you please tell me what was the purpose of your headline article today? I'm not understanding why you put the assets of the Canterbury Foundation in the paper. Is it to encourage people to sue?" the reader wrote. "Also, the headline, ‘tied to a Chicago group,’ made it sound like you were alluding that VIVA! has mob ties or something even more sinister."
I suppose she has a point; Chicago has a bit of a reputation.
With the scandal at VIVA!, though, we felt it was important to find out more about the organization. Because it is a nonprofit group, its tax documents are public record. And that was how we could find out about the finances for both groups.
VIVA! has sought donations from the public, and it benefits tax-wise from a nonprofit status, so it is open to public scrutiny.
On our Facebook page, another reader protested our front-page story, "Turkeys not just for the needy," which appeared Monday. It was about how the effort by Sterling and Coloma townships to distribute turkey has no income limits.
It was "irresponsible of the paper to print this story and to put it on the front page," the reader wrote. "Now, how many undeserving people will be in line for a free turkey? My husband and I work to pay our bills, and, yes, there are times we could use help. But why advertise it so that those who just want to take will get something when those who are older with no vehicle or no paper delivery will get right in line? Boo to you Sauk Valley Newspaper."
In the story, we noted that the townships have previously said the program is for the needy. But that isn't necessarily the case when anyone can apply for a Thanksgiving basket. The townships seek donations for the effort, so isn't it fair that potential donors know it is for anyone who applies, regardless of income?
Also, Coloma and Sterling townships each put in $5,000 for the distribution. I'm betting that property taxpayers like to know how the townships are spending their money.
David Giuliani is a news editor for Sauk Valley Media. You can reach him at dgiuliani@saukvalley or 800-798-4085, ext. 525.