Gathering Information: Difficult subject, but duty demands it | Opinion

This week’s article includes a four-month-long investigation by Forum staffers into the Maryville R-II School District and the silence with which it tends to operate. The whole project was a tough line for me to walk as an advocate for my own business, as a journalist, and as a patron of the school district. I know some will read this investigative report and think the Forum is on a witch hunt or trying to sell newspapers with tabloid reporting, but nothing could be further from the truth.

I really like the people who serve on the school board or who are part of the administration, and I consider many of them my friends. I broke bread or shared a drink with almost every member of the board. My children were students in the school district. I cheer on my kids at the same sporting events as the board members. Some of us go to the same church; I have worked with some, prayed with some.

I don’t believe the local board, administration or business members had ulterior motives in either case or are being malicious. However, the sound of silence from the board as a whole has been deafening and I don’t understand why.

At every turn, the Forum’s questions went largely unanswered. When the newspaper made its Sunshine Law request to the district last year, the district’s playbook seemed only intended to diminish and deter our efforts in an effort to make us feel like we were imposing an undue burden and/or unfair to the district, just by asking.

The purpose of the investigation conducted by the staff of the Forum is not to harm anyone or damage the reputation of anyone. It was undertaken for one purpose: truth and transparency. We must hold our elected officials to the standards of openness and honesty.

We would be failing in our duty of independent community journalism if we did not report on how our elected officials uphold these standards, regardless of our personal feelings.

As actors and patrons of the neighborhood, the public must explain the decisions made or not made concerning money, land and the most important commodity: our children.

Ken Garner is owner and publisher of The Maryville Forum and The Post.

Melvin B. Baillie