The higher-ups at The Augusta Chronicle must think all local citizens seriously suffer from amnesia.
Does everyone remember around this time last year when Chronicle President Dana Atkins tried to explain why he initially pulled Columbia County News-Times publisher Steve Crawford from a debate between then Congressman John Barrow and Republican challenger Rick Allen?
After the debate had been scheduled for weeks, suddenly it was announced that both Allen and Crawford were not going to participate in the 12th District Congressional Forum at the Islamic Community Center of Augusta.
Now, Crawford had already agreed to be the moderator of the forum and had been working with Hossam Fadel of the Islamic Society of Augusta to formulate the questions.
But then, all of a sudden, The Augusta Chronicle’s president decided to withdraw the Columbia County News-Times sponsorship from the event. He informed Crawford that he could not participate as moderator.
So, why did Atkins decide to pull Crawford and its sponsorship from the event held at the Islamic Community Center of Augusta?
Well, the “official” explanation from Morris Communications claimed it was an issue relating to the paper being a “cosponsor” of the forum.
“This has all been with me,” Atkins said last year. “This actually came to me from my boss who basically said, ‘Hey Dana, are you aware that we are sponsoring a political debate?’ And I wasn’t, to be honest with you.”
According to Atkins, he decided the Columbia County News-Times should no longer be a cosponsor of the forum.
“Due to a misunderstanding, the publisher of the Columbia County News-Times, Steve Crawford, failed to follow protocol in getting approval in sponsoring the political debate between Rep. John Barrow and GOP challenger Rick Allen,” an 2014 article in The Augusta Chronicle stated. “The Augusta Chronicle’s president, Dana T. Atkins, withdrew the News-Times sponsorship as it implied indirect endorsements.”
Now, everyone in Augusta knew that the Columbia County News-Times had sponsored political forums in the past.
Just weeks prior to Allen vs. Barrow debate, the newspaper had cosponsored a debate between candidates seeking to fill the Columbia County District 3 seat.
For some reason, the cosponsorship of a Columbia County debate between commissioners held at the Evans Government Center was all right, but the political forum between Barrow and Allen at the Islamic Community Center was not.
“We were not going to go out there and do that because it is an implied endorsement,” Atkins said of the forum that was to be held at the Islamic Community Center last year.
An “implied endorsement” of whom?
Barrow? Allen? The Islamic Society of Augusta?
It was such a bizarre excuse.
But that was the explanation that Atkins gave last year.
In the end, the Barrow vs. Allen debate did occur in 2014, only it was held at the Evans Government Center and the Columbia County News-Times dropped its cosponsorship.
Now, let’s skip ahead to the debates involving this year’s Nov. 3 election.
Just last month, on Sept. 29, the five candidates seeking the District 3 seat on the Columbia County Commission and the four running for the state House District 122 seat participated in a political forum held at Performing Arts Theater at the Columbia County Library in Evans.
In its announcement of the event, the Chronicle stated in an article that the forum was “sponsored by the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and the Columbia County News-Times.”
Wait a minute… now, one year later, it is all right for the News-Times to cosponsor political forums?
Just this past week, the News-Times hosted another forum at Euchee Creek Library for candidates running for Grovetown mayor, Grovetown City Council and Harlem City Council.
So, what have we learned here?
As everyone suspected, the only problem the higher-ups at Chronicle had with last year’s debate between Allen and Barrow was the venue.
It had absolutely nothing to do with cosponsorship.
That was a flat-out lie.
But everyone knew that all along.