Sunday, May 10, 2015

Jim Sutton finally gets a column! Great news. But hold them to bi-weekly (twice-weekly, not twice monthly, Jim)

Jim Sutton: Fine gentlemen and moral turpitude
Posted: May 10, 2015 - 12:10am

Because of spare time on my hands, I’ve been given the opportunity to add a biweekly column to the opinion editor’s job.

What’s the difference? The short answer is that I’ll be “me” as opposed to “we.”

In The Record editorials, I write the words, but the direction is decided by an editorial board. So an editorial takes on the pronoun “we” because it’s sometimes a team effort. That can be confusing for some readers, and a little bit awkward, wrestling the uncomfortable plural into a cogent sentence. “We” get criticized frequently for publishing unsigned editorials. But that’s all part of the grammar game when speaking singularly for more than one person.

In this column, I’m me, which means little except that opinions shared will not, necessarily, be shared by the newspaper. A column can be more personal and free-ranging than an editorial.

But bottom line, it provides “me” the opportunity to talk to “you” every other week about things from the silly to the serious. Random thoughts apply.

This week I’d like to tell you about a scandal and a grand man.

Those of you who read the paper or know anything about city politics know of Ed Slavin, a conspiracy theorist and political *gadfly, whose pugnacious mainspring rarely winds down. Last week, he blogged a question publicly that I thought needed answering. The issue has since broken out of its cyber-stall and escaped into the real world.

Ed wrote:

1. Do I understand correctly that you and Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline were once engaged to be married? 2. If so, during what period of time? 3. If so, would journalistic ethics strongly suggest that you now kindly disclose that fact in your next editorial? 4. Your April 26, 2015 editorial, “Time to put distance between distraction and destiny in St. Augustine” relied in haec verba upon Commissioner Sikes-Kline’s views as to Mayor Shaver, her approach, her style, her alleged need for “training” and the alleged rudeness of her “supporters” at the March 23, 2015 City Commission meeting? 5. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Fair enough.

I answered:

Dear Ed,

This is a reach even for you ... but Nancy Sikes-Kline and I did date for a short period (pre-Sikes-Kline, in case you were heading there, too) over 20 years ago. We were never engaged to be married, and I suspect we’d both agree that we were never suited to go anywhere near there. No, I do not think I need to recuse myself from commenting on the city commission because of this. You’re welcome to use this reply in any way you choose, but I’d ask that you print it in its brief entirety if at all. On a personal note, I recall that she was a very nice person with which to spend time — a pretty good-looker, too. Oh, and her mom didn’t like me much. That’s about it.

Regards, Jim

The fact is now disclosed.

On to the grand man. I was reading a piece in The Record Tuesday and it reminded me of a story I wrote some 30 years ago when my “beat” centered on Hastings, Corky Ringspot (a pesky disease of root nematodes on chipping potatoes) and the critters and fish that make the St. Johns River their homes. It’s still the best one yet.

The story last week detailed how St. Augustine Beach voted to restripe come crosswalks at a cost of $11,000.

The story three decades ago was about the longtime-mayor of Hastings, Bob Lovett. “Mr. Bob” ran the grocery store and was elected mayor somewhere around 10 times if memory serves, because our archives do not.

The only time he lost, it was by two votes. He and his wife, Lottie, went quail hunting that Tuesday and missed the voting.

The story goes that the Hastings Town Council called a vote to OK restriping Main Street. The cost was a few hundred dollars. Mr. Bob voted no. He was in a familiar funk of sticker shock. But he did not prevail.

Before a contractor could be contacted, residents awoke to find Mr. Bob squatting in the middle of the street — well into his Golden Years — with a homemade stencil, a paint brush and a gallon of flat white. He did the job himself. And, though he lost the vote, he won the altercation.

It was a different time, and one a lot of us must miss.

Jim Sutton is The Record’s opinion page editor. He can be contacted at or 819-3487.


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Bob Fliegel
Bob Fliegel 05/10/15 - 09:00 am 00Welcome to Sutton #2
A titillating and refreshing start to a personal byline from our opinions editor. I look forward to more.

I must say I remain baffled by the fact that the Record has apparently had to respond more than once to the odd accusation that its editorials are unsigned, given that unsigned editorials have long been the policy and default format in newspapers throughout the land.

In checking a few examples, I see that the Florida Times-Union editorials are attributed as "By Times-Union Editorial," the NY Times as "By the Editorial Board" (clicking on it reveals a board of 18 members), the Washington Post as "By Editorial Board" (8 members listed on clicking), and the Wall Street Journal shows no attribution at all.

The Post's listing of board members also includes the following statement: "Editorials represent the views of The Washington Post as an institution, as determined through debate among members of the editorial board." I think that pretty much describes the modus of all such boards and their relationship to the lead editorial columns in the newspapers they represent.

I can only assume that those who have complained about the anonymity of Record editorials do so because they believe small community newspapers should behave differently in that regard. Is that it? If so, it would be interesting to know the reasoning behind that notion.

Ed Slavin replies: Why not the best, Bob? The Record is definitely, defiantly, indubitably NOT The New York Times. Appalachian Observer Publisher Ernest F. Phillips and Editor Ed Slavin eventually grew to where we signed our editorials. Because, well, why not?

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