Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

It all depends on how you look at it

by John Halverson

April 18, 2013

A woman called me last week to say we didn’t run enough gossip.

She told me about a business in town which had received an “F” rating by the Better Business Bureau.

“And there have been many, many complaints,” she said.

The implication: How could you miss such a story?

When she hung up, I looked up the business and found that it actually had a “B+” rating and that there had only been one complaint, which had been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

Unfortunately, I failed to get the caller’s name or phone number.

So, I’ll use this method to reply and say:

“That’s why we don’t print gossip.”

Of course, people are sure that what they hear is true.

That’s why they watch Fox or MSNBC or read the National Enquirer because those media outlets tell it plain and simple, and to their liking depending on how they see the world. Both liberals and conservatives think the media is biased. Liberals think it’s slanted to the right. Conservatives believe it slants to the left.

It depends on where you’re coming from.

The same thing is true locally. Consider the debate over a campaign poster for alderman-elect Dennis Lyon.

Lyon won in a race among four write-in candidates in District 4. His closest opponent was Mary Jo Fesenmaier, a former member of the council. Lyon won by 11 votes.

According to some people, Lyon’s campaign flier implied he had the endorsement of the Lake Geneva Fire Department.

According to Lyons’ supporters, the reference was only to remind people that the fire department was where they should go to vote.

When I first looked at a copy of the flier, I thought: There’s no way I’d see it as an endorsement.

Then I looked at it some more and could see how someone could read it the other way.

Managing editor Rob Ireland said: “I wish I could have seen it without knowing the story.”

And that was the opinion of others I informally surveyed.

Again, it all depends on where you’re coming from, on preconceived notions.

You can decide for yourself by looking at the reproduction of the poster on page 9A.

Supporters of Fesenmaier filed a complaint about the flier with the county’s district attorney’s office.

The issue has been turned over to the Lake Geneva Police Department for investigation.

I think it’s highly improbable that the findings will affect the election, but those who are concerned about the poster have a right to challenge it. I only hope it doesn’t return the city to the days when attacks seemed more important than reasoned policy making.

During that period, there were two clear factions on the council. One was combined by then-mayor Bill Chesen. The other side featured then-council members Arleen Krohn. Penny Roehrer,Tom Spellman and the aforementioned Mary Jo Fesenmaier.

No matter who you backed then, we’re better off now.

Another example of “it depends where you’re coming from” came from comments I made about Fesenmaier in last week’s column.

Someone who doesn’t like Fesenmaier complimented me on “ripping her.” That wasn’t my intent, I responded. I was trying to compliment her.

Someone else, a Fesenmaier supporter, wondered if I had called her “divisive.”

To make it clear: I like Fesenmaier personally and I think she was a conscientious and studious council person.

I also believe she was on the council during a period where sides were picked and she was on one of those sides — whether she intended to be divisive or not.

I don’t find those comments to be mutually exclusive.

Perhaps, the confusion was on my part. Or perhaps, people were confused because the Regional News had once sued Fesenmaier over emails we thought should be public.

Or, maybe, the confusion was simply because people want to see issues and other people in black and white terms.

It may be a curse, but I think the world is much more fascinating than that.

I think it’s nuanced and multi-layered and a lot more fun to look at from different perspectives.

Halverson is editor and general manager of the Regional News