As a newspaper, we cover our share of public meetings – city councils, school boards, county boards.
They are useful in letting the public know what’s going on. But you can’t get everything from meetings. Sometimes, elected representatives don’t dig deep enough to find out what’s going on. Occasionally, they are aware, but they don’t let the public know.
If we had attended years of Ogle County Board meetings, would we have ever heard about the Sheriff’s Department’s credit card spending or expenditures from the off-the-budget “administrative tow fund”?
As it turned out, Sauk Valley Media’s Matt Mencarini filed a Freedom of Information Act request for those records and found unorthodox expenses. And we reported that.
Some of our Facebook commenters appreciated the coverage. They want us to report on how the government is spending their money.
Others had theories about why we wrote the stories.
One wrote, “Is the sheriff of Ogle County a Democrat? The way SVM is going after him I would assume that is his party affiliation.”
That’s a bubble I can easily burst: Sheriff Michael Harn is a Republican, as is the case with all of Ogle County’s officials, except one of the 24 County Board members.
Yes, it is true our company’s CEO donates to Republicans. But most newsrooms, this one included, don’t give a hoot about the party affiliations of their corporate honchos. We’re trained to cover things as they are.
Another poster wrote, “Seems like SVM has some sort of witch hunt going on. Everything from the Bell’s Palsy illness (which I have had 2 times in my life and is nothing to be concerned about), the lunch meetings, and now this fund that has been approved by the county and shows no signs of misconduct.”
We’re not hunting for any witches.
As for the sheriff’s Bell’s Palsy, he issued a news release about it. We ran it almost word for word.
In our stories, we never identified the spending as misconduct. We just reported on it.
Yet another commenter had an interesting theory for the reason behind our coverage on the Ogle County Sheriff’s Department: “Sounds like another reporter was caught speeding and using a newspaper as a springboard for a personal vendetta to smear someone’s reputation. Are you guys running a newspaper here or a tabloid? I’d really like to know.”
Well, I’ll let you figure out the answer to your question. As for the speeding, I’m the one who has that problem in the newsroom. The Sterling police ticketed me twice – last December and February – for exceeding the speed limit. They were absolutely right to stop me; I broke the law, and I said so in my column at the time.
In 2012, an Ogle County sheriff’s deputy stopped me for speeding on Interstate 88. But I got no ticket. I was really happy about that.
David Giuliani is a news editor for Sauk Valley Media. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-798-4085, ext. 525. Follow him on twitter: @DGiuliani_SVM.