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THEIR VIEW: South Dakota mayor banishes reporters over alleged misquotes; newspaper stands firm

Some members of the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee and Mayor Jerry Toomey spoke out Tuesday against a story that printed on the front page of The Daily Republic on Saturday, May 21.

Some members of the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee and Mayor Jerry Toomey spoke out Tuesday against a story that printed on the front page of The Daily Republic on Saturday, May 21.

The story highlighted the relationship between landowners near the Firesteel Creek, city officials and other government agencies trying to find compromise to better the quality of Lake Mitchell.

Some members of the lake committee, during their regular monthly meeting Tuesday, felt the story was inaccurate because it reported "fingers are already pointing in the farmers' direction" for the problems the lake faces.

"Over the past year, Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee members have expressed certainty that Lake Mitchell's algae issues stem from nutrient loading along the Firesteel,"  the story reported.

Our newspaper - an unbiased entity - has attended nearly every Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee meeting for the past year. Through the majority of discussions about fixing the algae-filled lake, we stand behind our reporting that the committee believes the issues stem from the Firesteel Creek and the phosphates that flow into Lake Mitchell.

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Our story was fair, accurate and reached everyone who needed a voice on the topic. And from Toomey's remarks at Tuesday's meeting, one voice in the story specifically upset him. Toomey claims he never spoke to one landowner who was quoted as saying the mayor asked him about fencing off the Firesteel Creek near pastureland. We invite any of our readers to listen to the recording of our conversation with this landowner to confirm his claim.

The mayor also claimed to be misquoted in the story. Again, we invite any of our readers to challenge us on Toomey's comments in the story. We have them recorded.

What's concerning is Toomey's decision to stop talking with our newspaper. At Tuesday's meeting, the mayor said, "If I'm not going to be quoted correctly, I'm not going to be having conversations with The Daily Republic anymore."

Will that be the mayor's response in all aspects of government if he doesn't like how he perceives something?

We're proud to have served our readers on this topic to inform them of the process in which discussions between city officials, landowners and government agencies like the NRCS - a division of the United States Department of Agriculture - can work cooperatively to solve a problem like the one facing our lake.

While certain people believe this story cast them in a negative light, there's a larger issue at hand. City officials, the mayor and people we interview won't always agree with how a story is reported. They should understand it's in their best interest to work with the newspaper, an unbiased entity whose job is to report.

Sadly, when our coverage doesn't match the mayor's agenda, his response is to banish our reporters. Still, The Daily Republic will continue to cover Mayor Toomey, the city of Mitchell and the city's happenings as it has always - fair, accurately and honestly.

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