"The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to." -- Thomas Jefferson
What is it about The Putnam Pit that so agitates City Manager Jim Shipley, City Attorney T. Michael O'mara and Mayor Jean Davis? Why is the knowledge that there is now a watchdog reporting on the activities of Cookeville government so frightening to them?
They apparently have the idea that their official roles in Cookeville allow them to control what people can or cannot know?
In a federal civil rights complaint naming O'Mara, Shipley and the city as plaintiffs, Putnam Pit Editor Geoff Davidian describes how his constitutional right to collect and publish public information was repeatedly hindered by city officials. This journalist, arguably the most experienced in the region, has been denied access to public records and denied the opportunity distribute The Putnam Pit in public places. In an effort to discredit him some have gone so far as to publish false and defamatory statements against him.
Citizens of Cookeville, you should be greatly concerned about the unusual fear expressed by your city officials toward the truth in print. It is obvious that someone has something to hide.
Remember this, the city officials are servants of the electorate. This is not a plantation. As The Pit's Lawyer X has been writing for the past six months, officials can be held responsible for incompetence and wrongdoing. The abuses of power we witnessed in the broadcast of the March 6 city council meeting, the arrogant and hostile tone of Mayor Davis, bring the government very close to the threshold Lawyer X has been defining. That is why this site has an Ouster Petition, so that ordinary citizens like us can regain control.
Next time, it could be your speech that is silenced, simply because they oppose the content or don't like your attitude.
Do not be shy about asking these officials why they fear of the truths presented in The Putnam Pit.
To Mr. O'mara, Mr. Shipley, Ms. Davis,
and others, I refer you again to Thomas Jefferson's words:
" . . . The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to."
Yes, eventually you will submit to the force of public opinion. In spite of your best efforts to interfere with constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, The Putnam Pit will continue to provide a forum for the ordinary citizen to question the integrity of your actions.
Shouldn't the city's blatant denial of a right as fundamental as freedom of the press have triggered a vigorous response? More than anyone members of the press should be aware of how vital freedom of the press is in a democratic society. In spite of differing opinions the local press should recognize and respect the rights of The Putnam Pit and defend its freedom to publish.
I challenge the Herald-Citizen and The Putnam Star to join in the long-overdue cleanup of local government. Our responsibility is not to be their handmaidens. Let's go to work and do what we were given the first amendment for: to be the Fourth Estate, the eyes and ears of the public. Are we worthy of that privilege? let's do it now.
Let's join together and create an investigative team, share resources, expertise. Let us be worthy of the badge we carry.
If we, journalists, do not speak out against this official mindset -- this bully attitude that has citizens afraid to question what their government does -- we have failed terribly and do not deserve the support and patronage of our readers.
They cannot shoot through all of our windows.