The editorial page writer for the Fayetteville Observer, Tim White, did little to enhance the confidence we have in our local daily newspaper, whose mission is getting to the truth or uplifting the image of the Fayetteville community. Matter of fact, what it did is confirm the speculation that White and our daily newspaper are out of touch with the citizens of the community.
I’m referring to White’s editorial “PWC War Is Over and All Is Well” that appeared in the Sunday, June 5, edition of the paper. Here, not only did he present a mea culpa in regards to his stance and commentary concerning our local utility, PWC, and its lawsuit with City of Fayetteville, but, he doubled down on just how badly he miscalculated the circumstances, environment and controversy that surrounded then City Manager Ted Voorhees — all of which ultimately resulted in Voorhees’ termination by the City Council. Yeah, White admitted he never saw it coming. Surprise, surprise! He continued his quest for exoneration the next day by appearing on WFNC’s morning show with Goldie for a segment of True Confessions where he was either seeking forgiveness or asking for absolution. Either way, admitting you are wrong can be a humbling experience. However, in White’s case, his arrogance has always trumped humility.
This being the case, it was no surprise to many of us that he went off mark siding viciously against the Mayor, our hometown utility and in assessing the intentions and competency of the former city manager. Again, no surprises here. For White to analyze our community, report on our community or pass judgement on our community, he must first know and understand our community. Pretty simple concept, yes? Fayetteville and Cumberland County are a community of revolving and evolving residents.
You do not have to be from Fayetteville to embrace it and love it. We are a community where everyone’s welcome. Acceptance and hospitality is our southern nature, and, it doesn’t take long for someone to know who the players are and what the community’s issues, programs, policies, initiatives and priorities are. These are essential for defining, establishing and maintaining our quality of life. This is true if you live here and take a sincere interest in the community. However, if you don’t live here, it’s extremely difficult to maintain a healthy and knowledgeable perspective. And, in this community, many people feel as I do that one loses the right to criticize or pass judgement on our community’s internal, civic, social or governmental affairs if they DON’T live here, especially, when they are employed as a journalist by the local newspaper and double if they are the editorial page editor.
And, that is where White miscued. He listened to the whispers of strangers. He took his information second-hand so when it came to understanding and empathizing with PWC’s plight with the City of Fayetteville, someone else made him their mouthpiece. This is also why he was caught unaware when the City Council terminated Voorhees. White was blinded by someone else’s light shining on the brilliant Ted Voorhees who also had someone whispering in his ear. Not a good journalistic testimonial when you miss the mark so conspicuously that you are compelled to admit it publically in hopes of salvaging credibility in the community you are supposed to be serving.
Well, there are simple explanations for all of this. Tim White is not incompetent. Simply put, he does not live here! He is not a part of the Fayetteville, Fort Bragg and Cumberland County community; hence, has little insight into what we are all about or what we value and hold near and dear. Why should he? How could he? White lives two counties away from here in Chatham County. Yes, that’s approximately 58 miles from Fayetteville, or, a one hour and fifteen minute drive (and that’s on a good day). This is not to say White is a bad person or that he is not a good writer. He just should not be in a position to negatively criticize and pass judgement on the community if he doesn’t live here and where the impact of his editorial influence doesn’t affect him, his family, his community or his property values 58 miles away.
In Chatham County White doesn’t have to be accountable to local readers, residents or face his constituents. Ninety percent of the community wouldn’t recognize him on the street. You won’t see him at a Chamber of Commerce event, 4th Friday , at a Kiwanis Club meeting, at the Cape Fear Regional Theatre, a Crown Coliseum event or SwampDogs’ baseball game. You won’t see him shopping downtown or run into him at a restaurant or see him casually shopping at the Harris Teeter.
So, when you screw up and misread vitally important community issues like that of PWC and Voorhees it becomes pretty conspicuous he is disconnected and making headlines based mostly on second-hand information. Unfortunately for us, his sources are not only unreliable but they all have their own personal agendas not aligned with the welfare of the overall community. White is not alone. WRAL TV has fallen victim to the same journalistic malaise. They have already exposed and conveyed their true journalistic worth and sense of fairness with their sloppy and irresponsible reporting involving Cumberland County’s Clerk of Court Kim Tucker. However, we expect they will continue contributing money and sponsoring local community events in hopes of purchasing our affections and the illusion of community inclusiveness.
Like White, they have people whispering in their ears directing and misdirecting what’s reported to the public. Also, like White, they too do not live here. No, we should be using media resources to tell the truth, convey the facts to our citizens, uplift our community and enhance Fayetteville’s image. Can this be done under the gaze of fair and competent reporting and journalism? Sure it can. First step, the media must get engaged with the community and make its own decisions and assessments. If they feel they must take sides on an issue, then investigate it and report the facts. At least the residents will be educated on the issues that affect them. Don’t expect things to change here anytime soon. At least now you better understand why things are the way they are. See ya at Harris Teeter! Thank you for reading the Up & Coming Weekly.