Reactions to Resignation of Newspaper Editor? Next Steps? : LUSENET : Kentlands : One Thread

What is your perspective on the recent resignation of Sonya Burke as editor of the Town Crier? Do you have suggestions for next steps the community should take? Do you have thoughts about how to avoid such confrontations in the future? What criteria do you think are most important in selecting a newspaper editor? And how important do you feel it is to have an independent voice in the newspaper?

Here is the text of Sonya's letter:

[text of letter from Sonya Burke, Editor of Kentlands Town Crier, to Kentlands Citizens Assembly Board of Trustees and Community Management Corporation]

Tuesday, February 01, 2000

This letter will serve as notification of my resignation as Town Crier editor.

Although the reasons for this action should be evident to anyone who took part in the editorial review meeting this evening, I want to expand on two points for the record.

The first concerns the primary issue of debate, the article concerning the Kentlands Pool Deck expansion project. I understand and accept the role of the Board to review Town Crier editorial content. I expressed my views on this topic, and the Board made a decision. No problem with that.

I do want to be clear that implicit in the Boards final decision to include both articles is the acknowledgement that mine contained no errors of fact.

But the reason for this letter is the total lack of common courtesy and professionalism exhibited by the President of the KCA toward me during this meeting. There is simply no excuse for her loud, demeaning, and disrespectful tone. I have worked in major newsrooms with people under far greater pressure than running the Kentlands and , frankly, I have never endured anything like it.

I have always thought the best results come when people work as a team from a perspective of mutual respect. Perhaps you will find an editor who can flourish under such unprofessional treatment, but I cannot.

-- Michael Berney (, February 12, 2000


I am truly upset to learn of Sonya's resignation, and believe it is time for concerned members of our community to make our voice heard. Michael - thank you for establishing this network opportunity. I'll spread the word.

Here's a copy of the e-mail that I sent to Sonya:

Subject:copy of e-mail to Sonya Burke Just heard about the episode at the Editorial Board meeting. Can't tell you how distressed I am and how unjustified Diane's outburst was. Please accept my apologies for this so-called representative of Kentlands and her behavior. It's an intolerable situation and I'm so very sorry you were subjected to such an undeserved kind of treatment. I've always had such a cordial relationship with you and I've so appreciated the good job you've done as editor. We need you. Please re consider if you receive an apology and it is made clear to you that YOU are needed. As one who has a vested interest in the Kentlands, I'm so ashamed of a few residents who give our community a negative image. Sincere regrets,

-- Nora Caplan (, February 12, 2000.

I am so sorry that Sonya resigned. I thought the Town Crier during her time there was excellent: timely, well-written and interesting.

I think we as a community have to ask ourselves why we are unable to maintain an editor. Is it because the newspaper is under the direct control of the Board and they have ultimate say on what is or isn't included? Is the newspaper just a sounding board for these few individuals or does it belong to the community? Who decides? The board?

Unfortunately, because the paper receives its primary funding from KCA, they do. It is unfair to any person to ask them to work as hard as they must to edit this paper, with no power whatsoever in editorial content.

I wish them the best of luck in finding someone willing to do so.

Liz Notter (liz@notterfa

-- Liz Notter (, February 12, 2000.

I don't want to comment on the confrontation that apparently took place. I wasn't there. But I will say this. I would be very hard- pressed to make a case for someone to take a job as the 'editor' of a 'newspaper' if they do not possess all of the rights and responsibilities normally involved in such a position. Otherwise they become simply the 'administrative support' for a 'newsletter.'

I will also say that we are very big fans of the Town Crier, and have been since moving to the Kentlands. I hope the parties involved can see their way clear to working together, respectfully and professionally, to continue this fine service to the community.

-- Patrick Malone (, February 12, 2000.

I was not aware of the resignations of the Town Crier editor and the CMC Site Manager until reading these comments. I wonder whether these two resignations are related to the same general or specific situation.

-- Nish Karakashian (, February 13, 2000.

From Your Truly Trying To Do Things Right President

I guess you are all dying to know what really happened at that fateful Town Crier meeting so here it is:

First a little background is necessary. A monthly meeting is held by the Board of Trustees to review the content of the Kentlands Town Crier before it goes to print. At this meeting, changes are made to submitted articles by the Board in order to clarify the information in articles or correct misinformation. The reason this needs to be done is because the Assembly pays for the paper (production costs, salaries, mailing) and because the Board is responsible for what is printed. Good or bad (and that has been debated by all of us since I started the paper 5 years ago) that is the way it is.

Each month, our editor sends the production manager approximately one and a half pages of corrections. This is done routinely.

Prior to the February meeting, a copy of an article written by Sonya Burke was forwarded to the Board and to me for review. It concerned discussion held at the January Board of Trustees meeting and involved a presentation about the pool deck expansion project made by Valerie Ellenberger, chair of the Capital Improvements Committee. I immediately responded to the Board and to the editor that I had a problem with the article. I felt it was misleading and the nature of the article led the reader to believe that the Board was unhappy with the recommendations made by the Capital Improvements Committee (CIC). It also implied that the committee was over budget and that the project was out of control.

In reality, the CIC was presenting early cost estimates to the Board with recommendations for what could easily be cut from the project to bring it in on budget. They never asked for another dime. They said the costs were just estimates and were hoping the finals, which were due in a few weeks, would be for less. I knew when they read this article, they would be livid at its implications. I was livid.

This committee has worked tirelessly and put in endless hours on this project for over a year. They have literally hand-held the project from day one meeting with the architects, holding work sessions for the community, keeping a thick notebook full of detailed minutes of every meeting they held, and presenting monthly articles to Sonya for publishing in the Town Crier to keep the community up to date on the project.

They had submitted their own article about their continuing work as a committee and I felt this article included all relevant information. Why mess with the spirits of this hardworking committee just to print a more exciting article? I had also talked to Barbara Moidel, the chairman of the Board prior to this Town Crier meeting, and she had agreed that the article was misleading and should not run as it was written.

Anyway, I admit the Town Crier meeting got loud. I asked for changes and Sonya said if I tried to change her article she was going to walk. I thought this was quite an interesting threat since she knew when she took the job that the Board had final say in what was printed. I certainly had to live under those rules when I was editor. I admit to saying that I would rather see her walk, than lose our great committee members who are actually Kentlands residents. That may sound harsh but I still stand by that statement. Great volunteers are extremely hard to come by and Sonyas paid position (she gets $1,000/month) would be easier to fill.

Its not like volunteers come a dime a dozen here in Kentlands either although we do better than most communities. And not without considerable pleading by yours truly. We are all up to our eyeballs in trying to be good parents, spouses, paid employees and good citizens. Adding the extra duty time on to being a community volunteer is sometimes the thing people are willing to forgo in order to make the rest of their lives move along more smoothly. I cant tell you how much I appreciate every volunteers efforts made here, whether it is serving on a committee or writing for the paper or distributing bimonthly flyers. I am sincere when I say that I felt this article would severely damage the spirits of this committee. Im still concerned about it.

To wrap this up, Sonya left the meeting angry. I left the meeting frustrated. I heard two days later from a resident in the community that Sonya had resigned the morning after the meeting. The first time I saw her resignation fax was today (February 13) on this web site Michael Berney put together  I was never officially informed nor did I know what she wrote.

I cant say that I was upset about her resignation. She resigned back in September when she was upset about the Board not agreeing on another article that should or shouldnt run and has threatened to quit other times. I was uncomfortable when the Board talked her back into the job the last time she resigned. I think it was the wrong thing to do then and I think that it is wrong for the Board to try to woo her back now (which I understand they are trying to do but I dont know if she has accepted). I was not invited to join in on that decision as President.

I hope you all better understand what happened. As to the note about Patrick, one had nothing to do with the other. He was offered a great job by another community  better everything. He would have been a fool not to take it.


Diane Dorney Your President for one year for better or for worse

-- diane dorney (, February 13, 2000.

It's helpful to get Diane Dorney's side of the story. One small correction, however. Diane did not start the Town Crier 5 years ago. The paper predated her. I was the "editor" for a brief period, and worked with Steve Spayd of CMC (who did all the grunt work) to put out a basic publication that tried to serve the community's needs at the time.

Maybe I've missed something, but I don't recall much information to date on what any version of the proposed capital improvements would cost. What options do we have to pay for everything? How much might our monthly dues increase? It's about time we had some numbers in front of us; such a discussion is a good thing. Thus, in regard to the proposed news articles, why can't we see both of them and judge for ourselves? There is a difference between the Board exercising its editorial policy and downright censorship.

Also, I am still confused at the powers of the office of the President, and the role one in this position has to play (vis a vis the Board) in controlling the content of the paper

Bob Mauri Resident of Kentlands since December, 1991

-- Bob Mauri (, February 14, 2000.

It remains unclear to me the motive for this forum. Until I can get a better grasp on that, I'll bring up a couple of troubling issues. First, did Ms. Burke give her permission to put out on the internet the text of her resignation letter to the Board?

And, Ms. Dorney makes some serious allegations as to Ms. Burke's intent when writing the article on the pool deck. I certainly hope those allegations can be backed up.

Sensorship is a dangerous practice - especially in a community as small as Kentlands, where democracy sometimes gets clouded by passion. The paper should run both sides of that story - Ms. Burke's side, and the CIC side. Let the community as a whole decide what is right.

-- Robin Caldwell (, February 14, 2000.

I need to learn to spell. Please forgive my errors.

-- Robin Caldwell (, February 14, 2000.

The long explanation Diane offered regarding Sonya's resignation is instructive, but beside the point. The problem for me is not the content of the "discussion," but the very negative style employed by Diane. No, I was not present, but I talked at length with Sonya and I have heard through the grapevine about "40 minutes of shouted insults." And that from a person who represents this community as President!

I appreciate the fact that Diane was the Editor of the Town Crier for some time (even if she would like others to believe she started it - see Bob Mauri's post of Feb 14), but under Sonya the newspaper has become much more interesting, topical, and broadly focused. How did a dispute about an article escalate into an out-of-control tirade unless it was calculated to elicit a "Take this job and shove it" response? Despite the aspersions about Sonya that Diane includes in her post, I don't believe Diane's opinions represent Sonya's actual employers' views. Nevertheless, her "my way or be damned" attitude has had the (unintended?) result of usurping Board responsibilities.

My understanding is that the newspaper is the responsibility of the Board. Diane has contributed much to this community, but she is no longer on the Board, nor is she an actual member of the editorial review panel. I object to her inserting herself and her personal attitudes into the governing process of the community to MY detriment and the detriment of many others who enjoyed the vigorous and dynamic entity the Kentlands Town Crier had become.

-- Joel Aronson (, February 14, 2000.

As a year-long Kentlands resident who has thoroughly enjoyed the peacefulness and sense of community I've found here, I am really distressed by this matter that appears to have created so much divisiveness. I cannot comment directly on the "incident" that occurred at the editorial review meeting because I wasn't there. But from what I've heard, the situation was more than loud--it was abusive. So it seems the real issue here is not corrections to an article but basic respect by one individual for another. There is absolutely no excuse for any individual to indulge in yelling and name-calling when there is disagreement with his or her opinion.

I do not want to see Sonya leave as editor of the Town Crier. She is a real professional--a perfectionist who has made our community paper something to be proud of. In addition, she is a lovely person. Despite my busy work schedule, I have continued to contribute articles because I enjoyed working with her so much. I know I am not alone. I wish there were something we could do to persuade her to change her mind. If she doesn't, I will miss her personally; but, more importantly, it will be a real loss to the community. She really is a treasure.

And last, I was distressed to hear that Patrick Gloyd had also submitted his resignation--another major loss to our community. I always marveled at how well Patrick did what is a very tough job. I find it hard to believe that Patrick's resignation wasn't influenced by the current situation, although I know there have been comments to the contrary. Since Sonya's and Patrick's resignations were submitted on the same day, It just seems too coincidental

I do not want to live in a war zone in the midst of battles. I sincerely hope we can focus on the real issue of making our community a good place to live and find ways to resolve our differences and disagreements in a mature and positive way.

-- Dee Aronson (, February 14, 2000.

I am saddened by the negativity that seems to permeate our community's public forums. To me, our neighborhood is founded on the idea that differences and diversity should be celebrated and embraced. Yet, it seems that there are those within the community to whom those differences are threatening and, as a result, personal attacks become more common place - both in the pages of the Town Crier and in public meetings.

To continue this negative dialogue is not productive. As a community, we need to decide how we want to be governed and how opinions about that governance can be expressed in a free and open manner with critical debate yet without fear of insult.

I am not clear on the current policy regarding the Town Crier's editorial process. We should discuss this in an open forum and, if we decide that it is insufficient to ensure an uncensored newspaper, then we need to take the appropriate steps to modify that process. I look forward to participating in this forum and to developing a workable solution.

-- Karen Dahut (, February 14, 2000.

None of the postings on this website are official representations from the Board of Trustees of the Kentlands Citizens Assembly Inc. The Board does not intend to make any formal response through this mechanism at this time.

Shelah F. Lynn, Legal Counsel on behalf of the Kentlands Citizens Assembly Board of Trustees

-- Shelah Lynn (, February 14, 2000.

Like Nora Caplan, I am truly upset at Sonya's resignation from the Town Crier. The paper is, and always has been, a board organ. But one has only to look at the editions that have been published since Sonya took over to see that, under her editorship, the paper has become more of a "community paper" than at any other time since its transition to tabloid form. Stories about, and the perspectives of, more people have been included. In this way, Sonya has been doing a lot more for our community, including more to bring us together, than she has been getting credit for. She has been doing a great job under extremely difficult circumstances.

I was not present at last Tuesday's editorial board meeting. But I have witnessed the behavior that Sonya refers to (in her letter of resignation, posted February 12) at other Kentlands' board meetings. Even when directed at others, this behavior has left me feeling demeaned, demoralized, embarrassed and angry. Coming from a Kentlands' leader, and occurring in the context of official meetings, it has seemed like an assault on the community.

The fact that we are even involved in discussing this issuethe president's trying to exert control over the content of the Town Crieris an indication of how ridiculously conflicted the situation is. The office of the president is supposed to be separate from the board, and, with reason. The Town Crier is, as clearly stated in every edition, the board's organ.

I hope that the board is trying to convince Sonya to stay on as editor and that they succeed. She has proven herself to be an asset to our community. She is NOT, as Diane's explanation posted on February 13 implies, more expendable than people who are "actually Kentlands residents."

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, February 14, 2000.

Hi folks. I'm not sure that this is the "proper" place for this response, as it doesn't actually have anything to do with what appears to be the topic of this thread. But I want to invite you all to another place, the Kentlands "conference" on The Meta Network (tmn) which, we believe, is the oldest online community of communities, originally started way back in 1983 -- if you can imagine that. Michael Berney has started a space there ("conference", "forum", the words get all mixed up). The Meta Network uses the software named Caucus and is different from what you see here, but it's really easy and has a lot of features.

Come on over and give it a whirl. Point your browser to:

and you'll arrive at a "start page" and you'll see how you create your own userid and password. After you go through that process, look for the Kentlands conference and pop in. Call me up at 703-824-0822 if you have any questions. I look forward to meeting you on The Meta Network. (By the way, we host a variety of conferences for communities in Arlington.)

-- Frank Burns (, February 15, 2000.

I am really surprised and dismayed that people have written such vehement comments concerning an argument that took place at a meeting at which they were not present, about a proposed Town Crier article which they have not seen. Can we just cool down a bit, and try to develop a workable plan to minimize such conflicts in future?

-- Nancy Turner (, February 15, 2000.

I agree it is inappropriate to comment on the events of a meeting I didn't attend. However, I would like to take this opportunity to strongly object to the way the Kentlands Crier is published and managed.

It doesn't matter if it's always been this way. Events and circumstances leading to such inflexible control by the president or the board or both is totally unacceptable.

I recognize the need for our elected representatives to be involved in the editorial process, but it is way past time for some basic editorial independence. We need a new structure, one that allows more editorial freedom. I don't have the time to attend the meetings and subcommittees that set board policy, new rules, and deal with the fees I have to pay. I do appreciate the hard work of the Kentlands volunteers who take part. At this point I can't. But, since my homeowner fees, and the quality of life in my neighborhood are at stake I believe it's reasonable to expect that when I read the Crier I can count on an editorial perspective that is tolerant of criticism of Kentland committee members or officials. We don't let our elected lawmakers operate under any less of a standard. Why should we permit our community leaders more latitude.

The Kentlands Crier needs an editorial board which includes broader perspectives, well beyond its current framework.

If not, maybe we need an underground newspaper.

-- Ken Vest (, February 15, 2000.

Spirtually I took this dilemma to Sandy Spring Friends Monthly Meeting for worship this Sunday a.m. We have a problem there with several members which is also dividing that community. In the silence and listening to several messages, it came to me that the Editorial Board first needs to make it clear that no hurtful, uncivil comments will be tolerated.

We live in a Character Counts City and we should be following those values in our meetings and public forums. It is especially important for the person who is supposed to represent the Kentlands to follow those guidelines.

In no way should agreeing to adhere to these be an infringement of First Amendment rights. We're talking about common courtesy toward all individuals. It needs to be made clear to every Board member and the President that this is a standard we must keep if we are to thrive as a community. If we engage in hostile behavior for whatever means, we are jeopardizing the common good. It is not acceptable behavior to dress down an employee before others.

The Board really must arrive at a firm commitment to discuss this issue with Diane before proceeding to other means of stopping nonprofessional, destructive tactics like the episode involving Sonya Burke. Otherwise, do we want any individual holding the Kentlands hostage?

-- Nora Caplan (, February 16, 2000.

Sounds like I may not have been specific enough about how the Kentlands Town Crier "Newspaper" started and I apologize. There was previously a Kentlands Town Crier "Newsletter" which was produced by our management company -- Community Management Corporation. Volunteer editors (Bob Mauri and Michelle Clarke and I think Ted Hopp) coordinated articles for the resident contributions.

My ambition was to start an independent newspaper and I presented the idea to the board over 5 years ago. I did not think our paper should be subject to "Board" review especially because I didn't think the developer should decide what goes in and out of our paper. I fought (and lost)for its independance. What I did do was take it over and reinvent it at that time. It became a publication with the look and feel and read of a real newspaper. The way it looks and reads today.

Hope I have clarified the matter.

diane dorney

-- diane dorney (, February 16, 2000.

Congratulations Sonya Burke the new editor of The Lakelands Leader. Best wishes and good luck. Sincerely, Bill Edens

-- Bill Edens (, April 30, 2000.

Let me add my congratulations to Sonya on her new position as editor of the Lakelands newspaper. Hopefully, Lakelands will learn from our mistakes and will do whatever it takes to work in concert with her (e.g., giving her the appropriate amount of editorial freedom). I must admit I am envious that Lakelands will likely have a much better paper than we will. I still maintain that Sonya is a very hard act to follow!

-- Dee Aronson (, May 13, 2000.

As near as I can tell, we don't even have a newspaper anymore.

Congratulations to Lakelands. Sonya edited a fine paper during her tenure here.

-- Tom Marchessault (, May 27, 2000.

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