Get on with it

A slightly different slant. Not a very telling one, but perhaps indicative of the fact that, as radio giant Paul Harvey pointed out daily in his broadcasts, once the apparent facts are known, there can often still be “the rest of the story” [“Curious? Furious? Publisher, Editor Respond,” Oct. 14] agree that Cecil Bothwell is both a very good writer and an equally good reporter. But there is also fresh in my mind a case in which he uncomfortably flipped position twice in a matter, and in one of these instances stimulated a good deal of effort which went by the wayside. This occurred because he had made a journalist’s pledge that only he knew he was not in a position to make, and which in the end he could not deliver upon.

I believe [that] to view objectively all that has been written about this matter so far is to sense ever more deeply that there is a good deal more here than the public knows. Whatever “the rest of the story” may be, Mountain Xpress apparently feels it has compelling reasons not to go into this. Unfettered by such constraints, allow me to suggest one of many possible examples. I just received my November-December 2007 copy of The Humanist journal. On page 33, there appears a paid advertisement for a book entitled The Prince of War. The ad reads: “Billy Graham lied: To his parents and Fuller Brush customers; to audiences at his crusades; to presidents and about them; to reporters. When caught, he blamed others while counseling lying presidents to lead us into war.” Then the ad states: “Among modern preachers Billy Graham is a Goliath, unchallenged by a fawning and cowering press. Now comes an honest reporter, with a sling.” The author is a Cecil Bothwell. Is that “our” Cecil Bothwell? It would seem so. The book publisher is a small Asheville entity called Brave Ulysses Books, which apparently is owned by Mr. Bothwell. Now, were I the owner of a popular journal such as the Mountain Xpress, which is produced within a largely Christian environment located about 10 miles from the Billy Graham homestead, I would have to think very long about remaining closely identified with my “star” reporter as he perhaps deeply wounds half the community that I count on for readership and advertising support. Certainly, the journalistic freedom of a reporter/writer should be protected at all costs. But when he goes out on his own, and onto a limb offering questionable support—as seems to be the case here—his employer has, in my view, every right not to be taken along, especially if he should also happen to differ with what his reporter has published.

I feel glad for Mr. Bothwell that he is experiencing the level of support some of the public is offering him. But I am also taken aback at what appears to be a public sense of ownership about the administrative functioning of the Mountain Xpress. It seems to me that the growth and success of the Mountain Xpress has, in greatest measure, been the result of a long and wide range of decisions made by the publisher (whom I have never met), which decisions resulted in the good efforts of those he hired—and not the other way around. Meanwhile, I find strangely impressive the sheer number of damning letters the publisher has been willing to print, written by those who support his former reporter, Mr. Bothwell.

Were I asked my recommendation to the publisher at this juncture, it would be to simply get on with it and leave the matter behind. The public can further reject the decision made, if it wants to, by leaving the Mountain Xpress on the rack. Don’t turn what seems your honest effort to let all who are disappointed be heard, into an exercise in self-flagellation.

— Edward E. Loewe

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