GUEST COMMENTARY: Why I declined to be interviewed by Hank Waters

Thursday, February 18, 2010 | 10:34 a.m. CST; updated 10:49 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I support the principle of a newspaper editor interviewing candidates. Generally, it is a worthy, important and vital contribution to our democratic form of government.

But under certain circumstances, the interview process can become injurious to the electoral process. With that in mind, I have politely declined a private interview with Columbia Daily Tribune publisher Hank Waters. Several concerns — many of them based on my personal experience with past Tribune interviews — motivated my decision, which I consider important to explain to the people of Columbia. 


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  • Previous Tribune endorsements have favored personal friends of Mr. Waters or reflected a total disregard of challengers and their positions.
  • In his editorial endorsements, Mr. Waters often selects part of a candidate’s platform to develop and attack a “straw man” argument that has little or nothing to do with the candidate’s platform and as such, misrepresents the candidate's positions.
  • Mr. Waters is a “civic operative,” so to speak, who prefers to lobby the city administration rather than the elected City Council. In so doing, he undermines their authority and the will of the people who elected them. For instance, the Sunshine Law/Freedom of Information Act e-mails revealed Mr. Waters’ role as “Hank the Butterfly” in a plan to take private land using “eminent domain” for the State Historical Society. The plan included carefully orchestrated editorials and was only uncovered when a member of the City Council discovered the “eminent domain” resolution on the City Council’s consent agenda.
  • Mr. Waters is unrepentant about his often-manipulative, “behind the scenes” activities. When taken to task for his “conflicts of interest” by Missourian editorial writer George Kennedy, Mr. Waters said he preferred the term “confluence of interests” and generally dismissed Kennedy’s concerns.

I would be pleased to see Mr. Waters at public forums, and at some point, I would welcome a more complete discussion of my positions with him. 

However, my campaign is about opening the political process to all takers, not just the few. It would serve neither my interests nor the public interest, under the current editorial climate at the Columbia Daily Tribune, to sit for an endorsement interview at this time, and it is with great sadness that I am declining the invitation. 

Editor's note: Upon receipt of this editorial, the Missourian contacted Columbia Daily Tribune publisher Hank Waters to offer him equal space for a rebuttal. He has declined that offer.

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Mike Martin February 18, 2010 | 2:51 p.m.

In writing about this earlier, I found other related links as well:

Waters on shaky ground as both publisher and community advocate

Mayor, City Council need to rethink ethics of eminent domain

Private gathering spurs public flap
City leaders deny secret ‘cabal.’

(Report Comment)
tina fey February 18, 2010 | 3:05 p.m.

Mr. Sullivan is accurate in his assessment of Hank Water's delusional and contradictory justification for his 'interests' in civic matters. The only consolation is that the citizens of Columbia are well aware of Mr. Water's prejudice(s) and have learned to temper them into any argument that he prints. We the public simply use Mr. Water's perspective as a benchmark - left of center, irrational, opinionated and subjective. We defer to the content experts on these topics rather than to Mr. Waters and his amazing technicolor ink pen.

(Report Comment)

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