What happened to the Lake Geneva Regional News, did it have a heart attack?
It must have had a heart attack. Maybe it got a stent or two, or maybe it’s scheduled for open heart surgery. Last week the headlines in that newspaper were all about the Town of Linn’s city attorney being investigated by the Walworth County Sheriff’s department over the fact that the attorney’s license to practice law had been suspended in January for failure to complete a continuing education course. The man continued to serve as city attorney without notifying the Town of Linn Board of his suspension. Some residents hold the president of the Village Board partially responsible for not knowing, despite the fact that the chairman Jim Weiss appointed a new law firm to represent the town as soon as he found out. But the shocker was the story run by the Regional News.
Other news agencies around the area, including the GSR, had heard about the legal problem and the attorney’s failure to reveal what had happened to him. None of those other agencies ran the story like the Regional News did. The Regional News indicated that they’d found evidence of a “disciplinary action” suspension as well, and then admitted nobody knew what the suspension was for. But the News did go on to list all the ‘crimes’ that a disciplinary action might be applied for: “dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation” among them. Evidently, in mentioning (and thereby alleging) that those crimes might be true the Regional News decided to take a “we came to bury Caesar, not to praise him,” attitude. Except in reverse. By linking those words with the attorney’s name the News has basically attached them to him for the rest of his life. And therein lies the next wonderfully “cold as the driven snow” fact that the News did not publish.
The attorney is dying of a terminal disease. He was ill when the suspension affair began. One wonders whether the potential of dying might have made a difference in his perception continuing education. Continuing living might have been the most important dish on his plate. It could be argued that the Regional News simply did not know except for the fact that when the Managing Editor there (Robb Ireland) was interviewed by the Geneva Shore Report, he indicated that he thought the terminal diagnosis was one of pancreatic cancer. He knew. They knew. And they didn’t care. It might be argued that the community’s need to know might overrule this icicles flowing through the veins kind of thinking and reporting, but does it really? Is the news cycle need to feed so intense that common decency can be disregarded even when people are “down for the count”?
It might be said that humans are nothing more or less than shaven lemurs come down to feed from the forest trees above, and finding fruit on the forest floor, hide it and then lie about the hiding. It is one thing to give certain members of the society around us humorous or deriding nicknames, or to hold them up to some ridicule for glaring public antics and decisions, but it is quite another to go for the jugular in journalistic search and destroy missions. The story about the difficulties of the former city attorney in Town of Linn certainly qualifies. Reporting when news agencies go too far is part of how journalistic competitiveness is kept in check, and a measure of individual human fairness and sympathy can then balance the media’s desire to keep the community as a whole informed.