Complaints aren't always news

Published 5:33 am Monday, July 14, 2003

By By Bill Crist
On Friday morning, a small press conference was held on the steps of the Escambia County Courthouse. The only three people in attendance were the individual holding the conference and two reporters.
At the conference, William McKenzie called for the dismissal of Brewton Police Chief David (Mickey) Lovelace.
McKenzie's demands stem from an incident that occurred in June 2002, when he was involved in a strike outside Citation, where he worked. After an altercation with Lovelace, McKenzie was arrested. The charges stemming from that arrest were eventually dropped, but McKenzie is working with a lawyer to pursue damages, claiming his civil rights were violated.
As it stands today, no civil rights suit has been filed on behalf of McKenzie. According to his attorney, Collins Pettaway Jr. of Selma, they are still assessing the case, trying to decide the best course of action.
Press conferences are generally staged by people or organizations that want to make sure their message gets out to the public. The media is called on to announce new product lines, to report developments in government actions and for a variety of other issues. Sometimes the information makes it into the paper or over the airwaves, other times it does not.
Every day, media representatives are bombarded with information that groups would like to see published. Decisions have to be made about the information's relevance to a community, about its accuracy and about its potential impact. One of the roles of a newspaper is to objectively report on events that occur within a community. Another role that we fulfill, through the editorials and columns that appear on this page, is to attempt to open discussion about issues facing our community by expressing our opinions on them. Sometimes ours is the voice of the majority, often times it is not.
McKenzie's complaint about Brewton's chief of police may not be the first against Lovelace. But anyone who has taken on a leadership role seems by default to become an instant target for critics.
Rev. Jack Fitts, during his invocation at last week's Brewton City Council meeting, acknowledged as much when he thanked the mayor and councilmen for assuming roles of leadership. He praised them for continuing to work for the betterment of the community, despite the fact that most of the feedback they receive from constituents is likely to be negative.
We are a society of critics, who tend to look for the negative, rather than focusing on the possibilities and using our energy to accomplish them.
As for McKenzie's complaint against the city, for the time being, this column is all that readers of The Standard will see of it on our pages. That is not in any way meant to brush aside, or dispute, McKenzie's charges, but as we all know, there are two sides to every story.
As the publisher of the newspaper, and in that role its leader, I have made the decision that until a suit is actually filed against the city, we will likely not run additional stories about it. The criminal charges against McKenzie have been dropped, but he's still upset by the experience. That's understandable, but it is not necessarily front-page news.
As this case enters the legal system and moves along, and according to McKenzie's attorney it will, this newspaper will report on its progress.
McKenzie said on Friday morning, if a citizen's rights are violated, there are groups that are keeping watch over the situation and monitor the outcome. The Brewton Standard is one of those groups. We have filled that role for the past 97 years, and will continue to do so.

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