Over the past several weeks, The Valley News has received several letters to the editor commenting on our decision to remove Jim LaForest as our Essex community columnist. As many comments on both sides of the issue continue to come in, I feel a need to respond to these comments, and hopefully put this issue to rest.
First, let me say that the decision to remove Jim was not one easily made. I have great respect for Jim and, most of the time, enjoyed both the humor and poignant observations made in his column. It was initially my assessment that most of our readership felt the same, which is why I often overlooked instances where he wrote heavily opinionated statements about topics having little to do with community news and events.
Regretfully, it was some of these heavily opinionated statements that sometimes drew complaints from our readers. Regardless of whether I agreed or disagreed with the statements sometimes at issue in Jim's columns, I began to see that allowing him to voice those opinions in our newspaper implied his opinions were supported by this newspaper, especially because there was not an equal forum providing for opposing views. This, in itself, was problematic, but it was compounded by the fact that Jim serves as a town councilman in Essex.
As we continued to receive complaints about the views Jim expressed, especially some subtle, yet disparaging remarks directed at newly elected Essex town supervisor Sharon Boisen, it became clear, both to me and the rest of our Editorial department, that there was a need to discontinue allowing the Essex column to be a forum for his personal opinions. Jointly, we decided the best course of action was to change authorship of the column.
My main regret from this decision was that I did not adequately express my growing concerns to Jim prior to his removal. Though I often made him aware of the complaints we were receiving about some of his commentary, I don't feel I did enough to communicate my own editorial expectations to him. For this, I offer him my sincere apologies.
That being said, I believe the change has ultimately improved the quality and integrity of The Valley News. I hope the majority of our readers agree, and if not, that they can at least respect our decision as being in the interest of producing a better newspaper.
Matt Bosley is the editor for Valley News and Tri-Lakes Today newspapers. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.