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Letter: Newspaper avoids asking tough question to sheriff

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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of The Republic.

From: Cheryl O. Jackson


To the editor:

I am writing this letter to the editor because, once again, I am outraged at the unbalanced and biased reporting carried out by The Republic newspaper.

I am stunned that you covered the Bartholomew County sheriff’s race, in nearly two, full newspaper pages, including the front page on Sunday, and never once mentioned that this sheriff’s department is under national scrutiny and that one of the candidates was actually suspended because of his involvement in a failed investigation.

How do you give an officer, who was suspended by his own leader, a forum to speak about his experience and not demand one reporter ask the required question for balanced reporting: “Why were you suspended in the Cary Owsley death investigation?” There was time after this event for reporters to speak directly to the candidates.

I teach at one of the top journalism schools in the country. Our student reporters would get a “Medill F” for covering Sgt. Dean Johnson, who was suspended in Cary’s death investigation, and not asking this obvious question.

Another question to all the candidates that should absolutely be required for unbiased reporting: “We have had a history-making exhumation in our county. What will you do to make sure this never happens again?”

The Republic took four months after Cary’s death to report the facts in his case. Only after the Indianapolis Star took the same info, hired experts to review “investigative” materials and blasted the story, not only in the state but across the nation, did The Republic report those same facts.

The Republic continues to act like a trap in this community, a trap that shuts up the people with no power or people who have stories that don’t support the image of the All-American City, all the while promoting officials without requiring accountability. Media should be a check on government, not in collusion with them.

I have been silenced in many forums in this community recently. In fact, this is my first experience to this kind of indifference directed at me in Columbus, but The Republic newspaper, a place I was once proud to work, has been the biggest offender against fairness.

I already have engagements to speak about this case all over the country, and one of the things I will do is compare The Republic’s coverage of this case to the national coverage. I will use this outrageous unfairness to teach young journalists to be fair. I will ask, “This is what the Indianapolis Star wrote and this is what The Republic wrote. Do you see the problem?”

The Republic doesn’t have to interview me to get the other side. In fact for months I wouldn’t talk to your reporters at all, but you do have to ask questions on both sides. You know that, right?

I will spend the rest of my life campaigning in this community for police and media fairness.

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