MercerMe has received a letter in response to our article “Municipal Leaders ask School Board for a tax break” published on March 11. The nature of the concerns expressed in this letter and our disagreement with the opinions presented require a thoughtful response, which you may find below.
Thank you for your feedback regarding our coverage of the March 8 meeting of Hopewell Valley Regional Board of Education. MercerMe, the volunteer-run hyperlocal news source for Hopewell Valley, relies on connection with the community, including in times of disagreement. We welcome input into our coverage and appreciate the feedback on our report of the issues discussed.
MercerMe stands by the reporting done by Amie Rukenstein. MercerMe’s reporting is accurate and unbiased. Furthermore, in this case it is based entirely on public statements made by officials and community members during that public meeting. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1gkDhIk66Ww5HsglRLXH-wJFrOiCCxgyY/view
MercerMe’s coverage is determined by our staff’s judgement of the news value to Hopewell Valley residents, our readers. News articles are not meeting minutes. Whether the content of a public meeting deviates from its agenda does not necessarily impact its newsworthiness, and to suggest otherwise is to denigrate both our staff and our readership.
The March 8 meeting was advertised as one for municipal leaders to dialogue with the School Board about the budget. Our reporting accurately portrays the statements made by each and every municipal leader who spoke during the course of the meeting. The headline of the article, “Municipal Leaders ask School Board for a tax break” accurately reflects the clear and united sentiment these leaders expressed during the course of the meeting.
Further, Ms. Rukenstein accurately paraphrased Mr. Colavita’s budget explanation to the public at the March 8 meeting. If Mr. Colavita or the Board find it necessary to offer the public further detail on the budget process or the issue of surplus more than was provided at the meeting or covered in our reporting, MercerMe would be glad to publish such an explanation.
As you note in your letter, many voices were represented in our article but few from the Board. At no time during the March 8 meeting did any member of the Board offer a statement, other than Mr. Sawicki, chairperson of the Finance Committee. In order to ensure the Board was represented accurately, Ms. Rukenstein not only included Mr. Sawicki’s statement but also requested clarification via email because a portion of his audio was unclear during the meeting. Board members had every opportunity to express their views, as did the invited representatives and members of the public. Had they made statements, these too would have been accurately reported in our coverage of the public meeting.
Every news source has occasion to offer correction to their reporting, and MercerMe is no exception. Over the years, there have been occasions when our reporters got the story wrong. When this happens and we are made aware, we are quick to assume responsibility and issue a correction. We take this responsibility to our readers and this community’s historical record seriously. This particular article contains two edits: one to clarify a mistake and one to correct an omission. (https://mercerme.com/municipal-leaders-ask-school-board-for-a-tax-break/) Our reporter’s coverage is otherwise an accurate representation of the meaningful and important views expressed during the March 8 meeting of the Hopewell Valley Regional Board of Education.
Thank you very much for your service to the community, for your support of local news coverage, and for this important dialogue.
MercerMe Editor and Publisher