Archive for Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Our view: Commissioners make right business decision

February 8, 2006

The time has come to set the record straight.

Since Jan. 26, when Leavenworth County commission-ers voted to name The Mirror of Tonganoxie the official county newspaper, members of the Leavenworth Times staff have denigrated The Mirror and also the commissioners. The Times staffers also have reported half-truths and shaded the truth in their so-called "news reports."

And while The Mirror has no desire to enter into verbal fisticuffs with the Times, it is time the reading public knows the entire story -- not just that part of the story that appears beneficial to the Times.

This commotion and name-calling by the Times is all about money. It's about money that the Times' management believes should be theirs. And it's about the county commission making a sound business decision.

Part of earning official newspaper status includes the right to publish the county's public notices. The county seeks bids from eligible newspapers in the county and then awards official newspaper status based on those bids.

Here are the facts:

  • The Mirror newspaper, under the current ownership, was the official county newspaper for six years, from 1999 through 2004. It also was the official county newspaper under the previous ownership for a number of years. The reason The Mirror was the official newspaper for all of those years was because it submitted the low bid and because it provided solid service.

In 2005, after the Times matched The Mirror's bid, the commission awarded the official newspaper status to the Times.

  • During the next 12 months, the Times had the opportunity to prove itself. And prove itself it did. County staffers complained to county commissioners that they were receiving sub-par service. The county treasurer said a recent report the Times had published clearly hadn't been proofed by Times staffers.
  • When county commissioners requested bids last month, The Mirror submitted a bid of $3.05 a column-inch. The Times, which was being paid $4.40 a column-inch for that sub-par service in 2005, raised its bid to $4.60 -- a whopping 50 percent more than The Mirror's bid.
  • Although The Mirror is a weekly, and the Times publishes six days a week, county staffers were asking to make the switch. They were tired of inaccuracies and the unresponsiveness of the Times' staff.

County commissioners, on a 2-1 vote, approved The Mirror's bid and awarded it official county newspaper status.

As part of its bid, The Mirror agreed to post all Leavenworth County public notices to the Web sites of The Mirror, the Lansing Current and the Basehor Sentinel newspapers, thus giving wide and convenient dissemination to all county residents, no matter where in the world they live, even without the cost of a subscription.

When the full story is told, it's clear Leavenworth County commissioners made a sound business decision. They went with the low bid. They went with a company that is courteous, that is professional and that publishes a superior news product.

As one county staffer said privately: "If the county were to receive substandard services from any other contractor paid by tax money, the press I've worked with in the past would be on us demanding we change contractors."

The mean-spirited editorial that appeared in Saturday's Times castigating county commissioners and accusing them of favoritism is uncalled for, and is an insult not only to them but to the voters of Leavenworth County, and to the entire process of seeking bids for county business. The residents of Leavenworth County should applaud Clyde Graeber and Dean Oroke for looking after the interests of the taxpayers.

The smoke-and-mirrors approach that the Times is taking -- along with its blustering threats -- is growing old.

Members of The Mirror staff would prefer to ignore the Times staff's self-serving news and opinion columns about their newspaper's loss of official county newspaper status.

But, as was the case when members of the Fred Phelps clan descended on Tonganoxie to stage their disgusting protests at soldier Lucas Frantz's funeral in November, a reply is necessary.

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