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Friday, November 6, 2009

Hunter Violates Editorial Policy, "Leader" Publishes Personal Attack... Again

Jon Hunter, publisher,
Madison Daily Leader
(photo credit)
Ah, the things I put up with. Once again, Madison Daily Leader publisher Jon Hunter makes an exception to his letters-to-the-editor "policy," just for little old me. From Thursday's Madison Daily Leader, a letter from Jim Hagemann (with annotations):

Editor, The Daily Leader:

This letter is in response to Cory Heidelberger's blog on the bike trail meeting1. It seems Cory is a highly educated man2. I would like to suggest he go back to school and learn some manners.

Just because David Pitts doesn't want a bike trail on his land is no excuse for Cory's3 personal attacks on him4. Cory, I'm guessing you have never driven a tractor or combine down the road and had impatient people pass you before a hill. The bike trail would be liability for any landowner or business5.

Do we need to be making bike trails when we cannot afford to keep our roads in Lake County up? The grant money is not free money. It comes from taxpayers. Maybe it's time we stopped spending money on luxuries and spend money on priorities first.6

Cory, let's see how much of a man you are and give Dave an apology7.

Jim Hagemann
Ramona, Nov. 4

Believe it or not, I'm not that mad at Mr. Hagemann. Had he had the courtesy to send a comment or just call, as Mr. Pitts did last week, I suspect we could have had a neighborly conversation and gotten our facts straight. He probably just got hot and blew his stack... on paper. It happens. I've left a message on the Hagemanns' machine; I'm sure we'll get a chance to talk man-to-man and straighten things out.

And it's not the personal criticism that gets my goat. You loyal readers see me catch worse heck from folks here on the blog every day. Sure, folks need to learn not to turn every policy discussion into irrelevant personal criticism, but I'm used to it, and I don't let it get me down.

What grates my cheese is that, for the second time in two years, Jon Hunter has allowed a personal attack against yours truly to grace his editorial page, in clear contravention of his stated editorial policy. During last year's school board election, his paper published a vindictive and untruthful letter from Heather Maher Devries (a condensed version of a similar screed she penned years ago) on the Friday night before the election. That letter was, at a minimum, a direct violation of Mr. Hunter's declared ban on letters urging citizens to vote for (or here, against) specific candidates.

And now, Mr. Hunter's paper posts Mr. Hagemann's letter. Two years ago, on rejecting a letter my wife wrote questioning an offensive sign downtown, Mr. Hunter said that his paper will publish "criticism of public officials and government agencies, but not of individuals or businesses."

Let's see: I am a public official... but I wasn't speaking on the bike trail in any official capacity. I have been writing about the bike trail from my individual perspective, on my blog, which is, marginally, a business.

When I called about last year's letter, Mr. Hunter said he had been out of town and that the nasty letter must have slipped through. He allowed a couple hastily composed letters of response in the following Monday paper, the night before the election.

One mistake. Sure. It happens.

Publishing Mr. Hagemann's letter is mistake number 2. Mistake number 2 doesn't happen. Not at a newspaper that conscientiously applies its editorial policy.

And to top it off, Mr. Hunter doesn't even do the community the courtesy of publishing the name of the blog or its URL so interested readers could see for themselves what Mr. Hagemann's hubbub is about.

Once again we see the superiority of blogs. Sure, we bloggers engage in some pretty sharp arguments. We dish out some stern criticism against all sorts of people and businesses. Our commenters can be even rougher. But we also post the citations and hyperlinks to back up our claims so you, dear readers, can see for yourself.

Like Mr. Hagemann, I expect to see a public apology in the pages of the Madison Daily Leader in the coming few days. Mr. Hunter will write that apology. He will acknowledge the breach of his stated editorial policy. And he will publish in large, bold print, so everyone can easily read that complicated Internet stuff, the URL of the blog and author maligned in tonight's letter:


Seems only fair, don't you think?

Notes on the letter itself:
  1. My main blog, the Madville Times, is about a wide range of important issues. I have written a number of posts about the proposed Lake Herman bike trail (five so far). Mr. Hagemann appears to think I've only written one such post. Hmm... hasn't Mr. Hagemann been reading?
  2. I've heard enough anti-intellectualism around here to know that, 9 times out of 10, the words highly educated don't bode well.
  3. Note first-name basis from a man I don't know. Note that in the post to which I assume Mr. Hagemann refers, I consistently refer to Mr. Pitts.
  4. Note we get no evidence of a personal attack. I questioned bad reasoning and policy statements, but Mr. Hagemann provides no example of a personal attack.
  5. Mr. Hagemann evidently missed my post on how South Dakota law may say otherwise.
  6. This part of the letter is perfectly reasonable, and it contradicts nothing I've said on the matter.
  7. Is a two-and-a-half-hour phone conversation and a follow-up blog post telling Mr. Pitts's side of the story enough to prove my manhood, Mr. Hagemann? Or do I still need to come out and drive your combine in traffic? Gas 'er up... and watch out on 230th Street!


  1. That's the nice thing about Democracy... you can make a jackass** out of yourself, just like this letter-writer did.

    **And I know a thing or two about jackasses, since I delve into that realm on occasion!

  2. Cory, compared to some of the vituperative venom I've absorbed from reviewers of my books on Amazon, Jim Hagemann's assault against you constitutes a model of moderation!

    The dogs bark. The caravan moves on.

  3. Nick Abraham11/07/2009 1:51 AM

    While the context may not be of my personel opinion, the fact is Jim Hagemann is Dave Pitts son in law, so all comments should be taken as that. Mr. Pitts should find a non-relative to speak his piece in the future.

  4. As farming becomes more productive we see things like protective grassy areas around creeks and streams become smaller and smaller. Those grassy areas act as natural filters to stop sediment, chemicals and fertilizer from entering our natural water supply. If one looks at aerial photos over the past 3 decades, there is a marked decrease in the grassy area protecting Silver Creek as it runs through David Pitts property toward Gehl. We should probably be concerned about issues like that, as much as worrying about a 17-foot ROW extension request for an expanded bike trail. Water quality from the west affects many people.

  5. What I've gathered recently mirrors Rod's concern. The newest farm bill allows re-certification of wetland maps from the 1980s, which were wetter years. A new snapshot often declassifies wetlands and has created a huge number of tiling requests in our county. All that additional water and whatever it carries will no longer stay put in those natural lowland areas (however they are labeled) and flow to larger depositories, decreasing habitat for ducks and so on, and further impacting water quality for Lake Madison. Some tell me this is what has led to additional flooding in ND, MN, and could affect us. Is this a legitimate concern? Nov. 10th is the Lake County water quality meeting. 7 pm at 4H grounds.

  6. And with more marginal land being taken out of CRP, protecting waterways becomes all the more of a challenge. If the feds are backing away, locals need to pick up the slack. Expanding grassy buffer along a main source of pollution into Lake Madison is a good idea... and would make for a prettier and safer bike trail.


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