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Councilman Tommy Burton should let "sleeping dogs lie"

A Column by the Editor
web posted February 28, 2008
COLUMN – By now I am sure most of you have read the edited Letter to the Editor sent to the Citizen News and the Edgefield Advertiser by Johnston Town Councilman Tommy Burton. If you have not, I have obtained an original copy and have reproduced it verbatim online. I believe it is important to allow the author of a Letter to the Editor to go unedited. A lot can be gleaned from the author’s actual words. Although I will be responding to the letter in an upcoming issue of our local papers, I wanted to take this opportunity give readers of EdgefieldDaily.com a sneak peek of my thoughts.

Johnston Town Councilman Tommy Burton was offended by comments sent in by readers of the Wandering Minds. He was further frustrated that I refused to tell him who sent certain comments that he felt were directly or indirectly referencing him. He did, in fact, repeatedly tell me he was going to, “take this information to my lawyer in Columbia,” implying that he would make me release the names of those posting comments.

I politely reminded him of the right to free speech and that I would never reveal the identity of a reader sending in comments, even if threatened by a lawsuit. I also reminded him that those who run, or get elected, to a public office opens themselves up to the opinions of the general public. Councilman Burton told me he understood, however, he felt he had a right to know whom in particular made the comments and that they would never be printed in the local papers without the persons giving their names.

He is correct. That is why you rarely see local residents in our small rural county sending in a Letter to the Editor to the local papers or EdgefieldDaily.com unless it contains a mild general rebuke of a broad topic or praises a person, group, or organization for outstanding performance. That is fine and understandable, if you want politically correct censored speech that is what you will get.

I, however, believe in free speech - devoid of censorship, editing, or political correctness.

When I founded EdgefieldDaily.com three years ago I wanted to bring the people of Edgefield County and the surrounding area raw and unfiltered news. The founding motto, “We will never report what never happens and we will never quote what is never said, everything else is fair game,” remains as true today as it did when EdgefieldDaily.com began. That is one of the reasons EdgefieldDaily.com is the most widely read local print news provider in Edgefield County.

The Wandering Minds was an integral part of that motto. It gives citizens the ability to speak their minds freely without the threat of retribution by politicians, organizations, or political parties. I have yet to meet a local elected official that has not complained about me giving residents such a voice. Tommy Burton is just the latest.

As editor I do monitor the Wandering Minds somewhat to prevent people from making threats, naming people that are not in the public realm, and cursing. I will also refuse to let someone accuse another of a crime for obvious reasons. If you believe someone has committed a crime you need to go to law enforcement and file a report. Afterwards you would be free to make comments regarding your claim.

Councilman Tommy Burton would have done well to heed my advice of just sitting back and letting, “sleeping dogs lie”. Obviously Mr. Burton is not well versed in the old adage and wanted to take me to task in the local papers. At this time I would like to thank Mr. Burton for the free publicity. Advertisement in the local papers is expensive and everyone with an internet connection that read his letter will run to log into EdgefieldDaily.com to see what he is complaining about and that will increase our readership even more.

An elected official is berating private citizens for speaking their minds openly and honestly only on EdgefieldDaily.com. You cannot buy that kind of advertisement.

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