In front-page editorial, rural weekly in Adair County demands that board members of county-owned hospital resign

In our experience, most weekly newspapers don’t have editorial pages, much less editorials, so when one puts an editorial on the front page and also runs an editorial about the decision, and the work is well-written and well-argued, it’s worth noting.

The Adair County Community Voice in Columbia, Ky., noted county government’s bailout of the “collapsing” county-owned hospital; elected officials’ request that they have “a say in any final decision to sell the hospital” and that “the hospital administration will try just as hard to keep the hospital independent as they will to sell it;” and some appointed board members’ dislike of the requests.

“It seems like little to ask of someone who is $13 million in debt and asking you for $1.7 million,” the editorial said, noting that one member said the board had been “a rubber stamp” for agents who secured the bonded debt. That admission “saves us the trouble of trying to prove that board members acted irresponsibly in overseeing the hospital’s business,” the editorial said. “Now the question has to be, ‘Why are they still on the board?'” It said the board not only “ran the hospital into the ground” but is “in control of a document that will show if any criminal activity took place,” a forensic audit that gives board members “a personal stake in any damaging evidence that may come out.”

In her explanatory editorial, Editor-Publisher Sharon Burton said she put the editorial out front because “We believe this is a critical time for our community, and we believe bad decisions will continue if the board is left as it is. We believe it’s our job to bring the issue to the forefront, and there is no better place to do that than on the front page of the Community Voice.” The explanatory editorial also included useful background and perspective, including: “At small newspapers we don’t have the luxury of separating the people who cover the news from the people who write opinion pieces. Instead, we work hard to provide fair and unbiased coverage of local news. Then, we look at how that news impacts the people in our community and take a stand as needed on our editorial page.”

Burton told us in an email that the editorial generated responses by phone, emails, Facebook messages “and of course being stopped at church and the grocery store,” all of them positive except a letter from the daughter of a board member, which is running this week. The Community Voice doesn’t put editorials or most news online, but PDFs of the pages with the editorials are available on the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues website. The front page, with color, is 3.5 MB; the inside page is 682 KB.

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