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Breaking: Newspaper becomes tabloid with mayor’s words

It may be a violation of my journalistic obligations, but I try hard to stay away from the radio on Friday mornings out of fear that Selma Mayor Darrio Melton’s acidic drivel might seep into my pores and mutate me into some primitive, teeth-gnashing beast of the wild.

I’ve succeeded in that endeavor for the most part, but my phone was alive with action Friday morning following Melton’s radio show in which he called the Times-Journal “the local tabloid.”

To be sure, Melton’s verbal assaults on this newspaper and its reporters, which were echoed by Information Technology (IT) Department Director Besty Curtis in the most recent airing, are nothing new and are of little concern to those at the center of his barbs, but the wealth of inaccuracies and hypocrisy paraded out in just 10 minutes of Friday’s broadcast – which was all that my stomach could handle – are something that cannot and should not be tolerated.

Melton started by taking the newspaper to task over an article that appeared Friday discussing the collapse of the city’s contract with grant-writing firm Azimuth which he said attacked a city department head.

First and foremost, no IT Department employee was ever identified in the story and the assertions made therein were not made by a reporter or even a council member, but by the president of the company.

The newspaper was then blasted for making “unfounded” allegations – another falsehood, since the newspaper never alleged anything but simply reported on the allegations made by the company at the center of the controversy – and for not reaching out to the IT Department for comment on the issue, which is comedic gold when one considers that hundreds of requests for comment or information directed to city hall  over the past two years have simply been ignored.

It was stated during the radio show that the company never tried to contact the IT Department, but such an assertion was never made in the article in question – Azimuth’s founder simply stated that “the IT people” couldn’t provide basic information needed to process grant applications.

To be sure, the paper wasn’t the only target – Curtis accused Selma Fire Department (SFD) Chief Chris Graham of lying about his inability to receive emails or faxes, called some members of the Selma City Council a “black plague on the city” and called Azimuth “not competent” in its work.

Yikes – remember, this is all within about 10 minutes of Melton’s propaganda broadcast.

Curtis and Melton then complained that the money so far spent trying to get the Azimuth contract off the ground could have been paid to Selma workers, despite the fact that Melton has failed to act on multiple votes from the council to bring city workers back to their posts.

The dynamic duo then accused the paper of destroying the city of Selma, saying that no one would want to do business with the city due to the paper’s reporting, and went on to complain that company’s are already not being paid for work they’ve done.

But, was it not Melton who only a couple of weeks ago issued guidance that all council-approved contracts be rendered “null and void,” thereby placing another roadblock between companies and the payments they’re owed for their work?

The mayor has long criticized this newspaper for doing the real work of journalism – not once has the mayor or those affiliated with him been accused of anything that could not be substantiated by supporting documents, outside comments or the mayor’s own words – to the point that his condemnations are now a badge of honor.

I can agree as much as anyone that there is bad blood all around and the city could use a double-dose of cooperation on the part of both the mayor and the council, but we should never suffer lies which crumble at even the slightest hint of daylight.

If the mayor wants to advocate unity, he must do so with more than just words;  if he wants to bemoan lies, he must stop peddling in them.

Judging by past behavior, this bit of tabloid opinion writing will land me squarely in Melton’s cross-hairs in this week’s radio show – unfortunately, I won’t be able to tune in: lies are as deadly and contagious as any disease and I certainly don’t want to catch any.