To the Editor:
Carrie Hahn’s June 8 letter to the editor criticizing The Smoky Mountain News and Reporter Quintin Ellison for the article “Crossing the Line” fails to note that it is not the role of a newspaper to be a cheerleader for elected officials. A newspaper has a duty to hold elected officials accountable to the public. This is what the article does in regards to Macon County Sheriff Robbie Holland.
When a person puts himself up to run for public office, that person is no longer a private citizen. They are fair game to the media looking over their shoulders and reporting on their actions or non-action in their official capacity.
The article in question was well balanced by presenting both sides of this controversy and the issue is a legitimate news story. The role of a newspaper is to be a watchdog on elected officials to guard against abuse of power. That is why our founding fathers granted freedom of the press in the First Amendment. And, by the same token, that is why letters to the editor give those who disagree with a news story the right to air their views on the news of the day, as Hahn has done.
Hahn’s attack on Ellison, calling her reporting abilities as “amazingly inadequate” has not been my impression of Ellison. Let me assure Hahn that Ellison is one of the best investigative reporters it has been my pleasure to know. I spent many of my adult years as a newspaper reporter, beginning in 1960, so I feel qualified to pass judgment on Ellison’s reporting ability.
The story was not “tawdry sensationalist journalism in a local newspaper” as Hahn says. On its face, it appears to be an issue of community interest and therefore it has news value concerning an elected official, a sheriff.
All too often we are prone to accuse the messenger (reporter) who brings us the bad news of being prejudiced, biased, and/or inadequate when we disagree with their reporting. These criticism are often rendered in order to take the spotlight off the issue surrounding the story.
I do not know who is right or wrong in this controversy. But The Smoky Mountain News did not step out of bounds in bringing this situation to the public’s attention.
The Smoky Mountain News has left it up to the public to draw its own conclusion regarding this incident from the information in the story. Hahn has certainly presented her reaction to this story quite vocally. Although I disagree with her, I do commend her for taking the time to write.