Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer Jeff Gerritt, editor of The Herald in Sharon and the New Castle News, has written the editorial below criticizing Kimberly Doss, mayor of the city of Farrell, for saying she will put on the agenda for the next city council meeting the topic of "how the city could remove Herald reporter Melissa Klaric from covering the council.” 

Given the penchant of Mayor Kimberly Doss for embarrassing herself and her city, she would serve the people of Farrell best by focusing on her job, not how reporters do theirs. It’s time for her to stop big-timing it and tackle the issues that matter, instead of stressing about The Herald’s coverage of her latest fiasco.

Now Doss has taken the blame game to a whole new level. At a City Council meeting last week, she said the November meeting agenda would include discussions of how the city could remove Herald reporter Melissa Klaric from covering the council.

The idea is so asinine it’s laughable. Taken seriously, this bad joke is the stuff of dictatorships: Controlling an independent media so they don’t report anything that makes the powers-that-be look bad. That’s not how a democracy should work.

Someone should give the mayor a civics lesson. If not, this silly charade will further embarrass council members and distract them from doing the people’s business.

Council’s agenda, and plate, are full enough.

In a searing letter of no confidence to City Council, reported by The Herald (last) Thursday, the local police union blamed Doss for lowering morale, escalating danger at a crime scene, and creating a hostile work environment.

In late September, a respected Farrell councilwoman and former mayor, Olive McKeithan, resigned from City Council, calling it a “war zone” under Doss. She said Doss had undone any progress council members had made in recent years.

Doss, who has threatened to sue The Herald, shouldn’t waste time blaming the media for her own failures. The Herald didn’t cause McKeithan to resign, spark the petty drama that has become a city hall staple, or write the letter from the police union. It simply reported those events.

Keeping the people informed about the government they pay for is part of the media’s job.

No legitimate, self-respecting newspaper or media outlet — certainly not this one — would allow a governmental body to dictate its reporting, whether of the United States Senate or the council of a tiny town like Farrell (population 4,682). The very notion dishonors the lynchpin of journalism: independent reporting. In practice, it would violate readers’ trust and compromise the newspaper’s credibility.

And enough of this nonsense about The Herald not reporting anything positive. The newspaper has published numerous uplifting stories about the community in recent months. Among them: the amazing work of a local mural artist, the rocking 3-on-3 basketball tournament, an inspiring 19-year-old competing for Miss Teen Pennsylvania, a youth-organized community car show, the city’s traditional Juneteenth celebration, saving the Stey-Nevant Library, and the good work of Highway to Heaven TEAM Ministries.

The Herald also has examined, thoughtfully and candidly, community efforts to overcome racism and other problems, including pieces on Black Lives Matter, the Empowered for Change prayer march, and the controversy surrounding the late-Farrell basketball coach Edward J. McCluskey.

Most of this fine work, by the way, was done by Klaric.

Could The Herald’s coverage of Farrell been better — more sensitive, more diverse, more comprehensive? No doubt. But to portray The Herald as the enemy of the people is beyond ridiculous.

We do not blame Doss for disliking some of the stories about her. But if Doss doesn’t like the coverage, she should do something about it. She can start by acting like an adult.

Do your job, Mayor Doss, and let us do ours.

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