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Thankful, Yet Critical Of ‘Bee’ Reporting



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To the Editor:

As we leave a weekend of honoring service members who died while serving our country, I am compelled to reflect on the rights we have because of them. Specifically, the First Amendment of the US Constitution comes to mind because it applies to so much of what is happening in Newtown recently.

The current discussion about book bans at Newtown High School has been covered extensively by The Newtown Bee and involves consideration of the First Amendment (which has been interpreted to limit the power of school officials to remove books from school libraries based on content).

This issue has led to another question about freedom of speech, the question of whether the Board of Education can change the long-held practice of limiting public speaking at their meetings from three minutes to two. Government is allowed to restrict time, place and manner of speech. However, this must be consistent and content neutral.

In other words, if people are allowed three minutes to speak on curriculum or budget, then people must also be allowed three minutes to share their view on challenged books. Changing a long-held practice specifically for meetings at which book challenges are on the agenda runs afoul of the content-neutral requirement of the First Amendment.

The First Amendment also protects the right to peaceably assemble. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and unaffiliated people gathered prior to the last Board of Education meeting to support students and educators — using one of their First Amendment rights to support students’ First Amendment right. Don’t be fooled by the accounts of people who weren’t even there.

The First Amendment affords rights, but also carries responsibility. Although it provides that people can insult people with whom they disagree; that alleged pornographic or obscene passages from books can be read aloud at meetings; and even that people can make false claims (eg, the Chair ordered that the room be cleared, and the public refused); we have a moral obligation above and beyond the First Amendment to use our voices responsibly and righteously.

Likewise, the press is protected by the First Amendment, and I am thankful for the reporting that The Bee has faithfully provided our town for more than a century. I am also thankful for my right to challenge the very paper that affords me the platform to write this letter.

So, I will end with this: why would The Bee seemingly endorse the Republican Town Committee leadership’s characterization of the May 16th meeting which clearly contained inaccuracies (Chanting? Thrown objects? Incitement?) — and why would an editorial cite hearsay? I will defend our free press, but just as citizens are morally obligated to use speech carefully, so must the press.

Freedom of speech is essential for a functioning democracy — our fellow Americans have fought for that right. We owe it to them, ourselves, and future generations to defend it vigorously AND use it wisely.

This letter is representing my own view and not that of any board on which I sit.

Michelle Embree Ku


Editor’s Note: Our May 26 Ink Drops made no mention of “chanting,” “thrown objects,” or “incitement.” The Bee stands behind its reporting and editorial content along with multiple trusted sources in attendance including its own reporter and the contents of audio recordings made at the May 16 meeting.

Comments are open. Be civil.
  1. bw.reloconsult@snet.net says:

    I’ve written a number of letters on media bias and how important it is to judge all you read and hear. Below are important reminders from my previous letter to the Bee.
    Media Bias
    Nearly half (46%) of all Americans think the media is very biased.) Source: Gallop/Knight poll.
    Everyone is biased — and that’s okay. There’s no such thing as unbiased news. But hidden media bias misleads, manipulates, and divides us. So, everyone should learn how to spot media bias. Source: Aside News
    Some things to look for when trying to decide if the news your reading is biased.: Source multiple articles on bias
    *Placement of the article in your newspaper: front page or buried in the back pages
    *The amount of coverage on one subject or elected official
    *Coverage of a subject from one perspective only, a false balance between sides of an issue
    *Omission of news or issues
    *Use of photos
    *Date of coverage, too early or too late
    *Selection of quotes
    *Sources interviewed
    *News releases treated as news
    *Loaded Language or buzz words

    Keep your eyes and minds open, question all you read, see, or hear and filter the news accordingly. Don’t forget you are also biased in interpreting the news.

  2. mkmurphyphd says:

    I’m so glad someone took the time to write this. I questioned whether I was at the same meeting. I think people are mistaking disagreement for “vile” behavior. Just because we didn’t all agree it didn’t mean anyone was unsafe, threatened, or was acting with hostility. No objects were thrown. I don’t know how anyone can question this when there’s a video record of the entire thing. Watch the video.

    1. nb.john.voket says:

      Our Editorial Ink Drops was directed at residents who might attend any public meeting. Following similar issues at a recent P&Z meeting, our latest editorial on the subject stated: “For the second time in recent months, attendees divided over disagreements with officials at a public meeting erupted into jeering, insults, vulgar gestures, and cursing.” We never directed the word “vile” at anyone, but it may have been used by others in letters, or in quotes or statements provided on the record as part of a larger body of reporting.

    2. newtown_citizen says:

      mkmurphyphd: Vile is an overstatement for May 16; though the behaviors were definitely disrespectful. If you want a true display of “vile” behavior I IMPLORE you to watch the recording at the June 1 meeting. Watch 33:20-43:20.

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