To the Editor
I would like to address Dresden Mayor Jeff Washburn’s recent Facebook post, which was directed at me. On his personal Facebook page, he discusses a story I wrote for the Weakley County Press where I stated Washburn was wrong in his numbers at the informal condemnation meeting last month. He further stated that he was accurate in his numbers after attending a Long-Term Recovery Group meeting where those numbers were reported. At the time of that meeting (County Mayor) Jake Bynum didn’t have the numbers and wanted to clear up any confusion the public might have. Whether or not Washburn was close to being accurate at the time he stated the numbers is irrelevant – the point is that at the time of that meeting, those numbers were not reflected by Bynum. The follow-up story I wrote on the matter was accurate with the corrections I was given by Bynum.
Washburn further wrote that at the informal condemnation meeting where he stated that the money available by LTRG would “probably be free assistance” and that Bynum stated in the correction that it “would be free assistance.” Washburn stated that “Sounds to me, we pretty much said the same thing with the exception I used the word ‘probably’.”
I would say these two statements are very different things because of the word “probably.” The word probably indicates an amount of uncertainty and leaves an openness for doubt. What the word “probably” does is allow the public to assume that the money available through LTRG might not be free assistance, which Bynum was quick to clear up by stating that it was, in fact, free. As a previous editor of a newspaper, Washburn should know that words matter in the context that they are in. So, once again, what I wrote was accurate considering the difference that the word “probably” makes in the context of the story in relation to the public’s interpretation of it.
Washburn further stated that it’s been my goal to discredit him. I would say that all I have ever done is accurately report the news and keep all of my recordings for this purpose. There was never anything negative regarding the mayor until the Dresden Business Association meeting where he commented about low-income housing, which provoked a group of UT Martin students to stand up with their “Fight Poverty, not the Poor” stance.
Washburn then contacted me directly to make a statement in response to the group, which I wrote word for word on a recorded line. At the town hall meeting he claimed I may have “misquoted him.” Again, everything I report on, I have recordings saved, so if he thinks he has been misquoted he, along with anyone else who has questions, is certainly free to come up to the office and listen to any and all recordings pertaining to him. Everything else moving forward that I have ever reported on regarding the mayor has caused him to lash out at me personally, both on the City’s Facebook page, before it was suspended, and his own personal page.
Washburn went on to say that the reason I am biased was because of a post I had made regarding my own recovery. In that post I stated that a utility pole was still down, a tree was still down, and a Frontier power line was down, which had prevented me from being able to get the fence that was destroyed rebuilt. I further went into the fact that the organizations in the County who had donations to help affected citizens like myself were still sitting on the money months later. That post by me is true and has nothing to do personally with Washburn. It has taken months for the LTRG to get started with assisting people with those funds and as a citizen I was certainly frustrated at the matter. However, it never made me biased in my reporting of anything related to the LTRG. Tommy Wilson from the LTRG actually took care of the tree that was down in my yard so that my fence could be rebuilt, and I made a Facebook post thanking him for his assistance with that matter.
I report on the facts that are given to me by officials, organizations and citizens in the area. Never once in any story have I stated that “I believe” or “I feel” because that should never be in any news story. I have always reported on any story in the county that comes across my desk whether that news is good or bad because accurate reporting is important to me. I’m sorry that Washburn feels it has been a personal attack, but it hasn’t. I’ve been accurate and professional in every story I have written because being a part of the Weakley County Press is my passion and they are all like family to me. Washburn is welcome to discuss this matter in a professional manner with me at The Press office at his convenience and does not need to resort to Facebook posts to try and discredit me as a reporter.