Editorial: No, we don’t need permission to report on meetings

  • Tuesday, June 23, 2020 4:15pm
  • Opinion

Coupeville Mayor Molly Hughes doesn’t seem to understand a really basic function of a newspaper, or this thing called the First Amendment.

She also doesn’t seem to have a very high opinion of the intelligence of downtown merchants.

During a recent council meeting, she criticized the Whidbey News-Times for reporting on what was said during a prior public meeting because she felt it swayed the opinions of some merchants before she had the chance to sway their opinions herself.

Although online, it was a meeting open to the public — by law.

The governor’s proclamation regarding public meetings during the pandemic was very specific about remote meetings being open to the public through telephone access at a minimum and that everyone who attends the meeting is supposed to be able to hear each other talk.

The Coupeville meetings have been less public-friendly than many other government meetings on Whidbey Island. It’s hard to tell who’s speaking and audience comments haven’t been allowed during the meetings, though that changed this week.

Newspapers have reported on public meetings since the formation of this nation. It’s the job of newspapers to inform the public about what its government representatives are doing. The importance of the public knowing what the government is doing is the reason for the state’s comprehensive Sunshine Laws. The media doesn’t wait for the “go ahead” from public officials.

During the meeting, Hughes asked the council for permission to temporarily close Front Street to cars to create more space for pedestrians to safely move around. The council told her to move forward with it, which makes sense.

It was a good idea.

But during the following meeting, Hughes claimed some merchants read about her plan in the newspaper before she could get to them, and therefore they came out against it.

Hughes gave up on her proposal. She said the headline caused confusion because it made the decision sound more final than it was, which somehow contributed to people being against the idea.

“Ideally, it would have been nice for all of the businesses to gather in a public meeting and any interested residents that wanted to come and listen and give their two cents,” Hughes said.

Gosh. If only something like that existed. People could give their opinions, the council could make decisions and the newspaper could report on what the council does.

Almost like democracy.

More in Opinion

Sound Off: Rethinking proposed bans on natural gas

By Don Brunell Sometimes being first isn’t good. Such is the case… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Disputes unmask extent of misinformation, confusion about face coverings

Together with social distancing, donning a face covering is proven to be… Continue reading

Sound Off: State’s military, economy rely on Super Hornet funding

Washington state is an important state for our country’s Armed Services and… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: History of Whidbey Island law enforcement is one of reform

Whidbey Island residents are lucky to have the professionally run law enforcement… Continue reading

Sound Off: Climate on the agenda this year; carbon tax should be too

A few weeks into the new administration, the federal government is off… Continue reading

Smaller, safer nuclear reactors in works for Hanford reservation

It isn’t often we hear good news from the Hanford, but the… Continue reading

Sound Off: Workshop a chance to learn about racist societal structures

As our nation struggles with current and past racial injustices, it is… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Deer Lagoon Grange’s membership should be open to all

The Deer Lagoon Grange has become an unlikely focal point in the… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Seek public input, avoid consultants in spending stimulus money

It appears that government officials on Whidbey will have a lot of… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Central Whidbey location is right for homeless shelter

Since 2017, the Haven has offered a warm, safe place to sleep… Continue reading

Sound Off: Working to strengthen WhidbeyHealth’s financial position

The declaration of a global pandemic was made just over a year… Continue reading

From the Publisher: Times are changing, and so is our mode of newspaper delivery

When you’re nearly 130 years old, you have to adapt to the… Continue reading