BY WATCHING ADAMS STAFF – 11/7/16
On Friday, October 28th, former Adams State University (ASU faculty) and lifelong Alamosa community member Danny Ledonne submitted an op-ed to the Valley Courier entitled “Field Notes from the Valley of Fear,” now published on Watching Adams. Within a few hours, Valley Courier publisher Keith Cerny replied directly to Ledonne, refusing to run the editorial. The email read in full:
From: Keith Cerny
Friday, October 28, 2016 2:07 PM
To: Danny Ledonne
Cc: Courier news
Subject: letter to editor
Why would someone of your “intelligence” want to publish a letter in our RAG. Sorry, it’s not running. Too bad you’ve burned so many bridges. You obviously have a great ability to write. I guess you’ll have to find some other RAG to publish your letter in.
Keith R. Cerny
Later that same afternoon, Ledonne replied:
From: Danny Ledonne
Friday, October 28, 2016 4:45 PM
To: Keith Cerny
Cc: Courier news
Subject: Re: letter to editor
Is RAG an acronym? You’ve capitalized it repeatedly here as though it has some particular meaning or reference of which I’m not aware.
You’ve also used “intelligence” in quotes here, which I take to mean as coming from some previous statement or claim. This also is unclear to me.
Over the past five years, I’ve written and the Courier has published any number of letters to the editor on a broad range of topics – from cannabis and gay rights to police brutality and Arnold Salazar’s inability to articulate how a legal settlement works. I’ve written on everything from defending the value of Adams State to maintaining public access to the Polston school property. Ergo, I am genuinely surprised you wouldn’t publish this op-ed given the array of views the Valley Courier’s opinion page showcases generally. Perhaps that highlights its unique merits to showcase elsewhere.
I’ve always believed that one should lead by example and have tried to create commentary that offers a different perspective for readers – one that I would imagine is welcome given that it’s free content and relevant reading for a regional publication. I would be curious on what basis this submission is being rejected and if others can expect to have similar treatment of their submissions? Or is there one editorial standard for Danny Ledonne and another standard for everyone else? Courier readers should know, rather than be left guessing by the paper’s publisher.
The remarkable aspect of this experience for me has been discovering which bridges were combustible due to feckless loyalties and which remain reliable sources of ongoing support based on sound principles. We should all be so lucky to know as much. Or as Aristotle observed, “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”
Danny Ledonne, MFA
Ledonne has received no response from Cerny.
One observer noted that Cerny was likely using “RAG” in reference to an October 18th comment on the Watching Adams Comments page which read:
October 18, 2016 at 8:23pm Valley Courier Headline: ASU Financials Looking Positive Reality Headline: Valley Courier a joke, a rag, run by editors devoid of ethics Reality Headline: True journalism is dead Byline: Julie Waechter Taxpayers already pay Julie to write this crap. I'm not about to buy the Valley Courier and pay Julie twice. Financials must be just great when enrollment is down for the fifth straight year. Who needs students when you can market your land? And "rightsize" your way out of failure.
“It’s comforting to know that Cerny reads Watching Adams” Ledonne noted.
Ledonne has previously written that Watching Adams was created in part because “critical and sustained local news coverage of [Adams State] university did not previously exist and that the university’s equity, transparent governance, and institutional mission were suffering as a result.”
Stephen Mumme, Co-President of the Colorado Association of American University Professors (AAUP), read Ledonne’s submission and stated, “You’ve written a fine opinion piece but it does not surprise me the Courier rejected it even as they praised your draftsmanship. These small town papers are notorious boosters of local interests and wary of anything controversial, especially those stories and opinions challenging attitudes associated with businesses and institutions buying ad space.”
One Watching Adams reader observed, “I read your op-ed piece, there is no reason for the Courier not to publish it. I am surprised that Keith did that. It shows how narcissistic the town is, always patting themselves on the back and just keep on saying how great they are and what a great place they live in!”
Another San Luis Valley resident responded to the news of the op-ed being rejected with, “Essentially yours is a thank you note to your supporters. So sad, it is the American way. Keith knows what side his bread is buttered on as AS”U” is a major funder of his “RAG”. I guess he doesn’t have the gonads to publish anymore and bite the hand that feeds him… He is in comfortable territory with them as comfortable compadres.”
Upon learning that Cerny rejected this op-ed, at least one Valley Courier subscriber told Watching Adams that they are canceling their subscription to the paper.
The following week, Ledonne submitted the “Valley of Fear” op-ed to other regional publications, several of whom did publish it. These include the Pagosa Daily Post, SLV Junction, and Antonito News.
Upon receiving Ledonne’s submission, Pagosa Daily Post editor Bill Hudson reached out to Ledonne with his own experiences and advice:
“I think I wrote something very similar, about Pagosa Springs, back about 8 years ago. We also had the problem of a frightened citizenry, protecting their businesses from retribution and fearful of losing their jobs if they spoke out. From what I could tell — as one of the few people willing to challenge the ‘local powers that be’ — their fears were sometimes justified. If you indeed enjoy writing, and challenging the status quo, you might want to consider starting an online news source, like what we are doing over here in Pagosa Springs with PagosaDailyPost.com. It’s taken a decade of work to get where we are at, but I think our efforts have paid off in terms of opening up the community conversation and lessening the fearful feelings.”
Ledonne responded by informing Hudson about Watching Adams as an online news source and thanking him for Pagosa Daily Post’s support.
“In a tangible way, that the Valley Courier refused to run an op-ed about how the San Luis Valley tends to be repressive towards dissenting views or anyone who challenges the status quo simply proves the central point I was making by writing it in the first place” Ledonne said.