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Setting the record straight

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B. Rae Perryman 

The Cecil Whig has been the newspaper of record for Cecil County for generations. For the past 178 years, we have been your source for local news. It’s my goal that everyone be featured in the Cecil Whig at least once at some point in their lives. Everyone in the county has something that makes them remarkable, and it is my greatest joy to log that for the annals of history.
 
The Cecil Whig was, scores of years ago, a paper with a political bent. We are in more recent decades an apolitical newspaper, and we do not endorse candidates nor pick favorites. 
 
The newspaper business is a hard one, and a humbling one, especially in 2020. Gone are the days when the newspaper was the only place to get news, which is why we hold ourselves to journalistic ethics and earnest reporting. We aren’t the only place to get news, but as the paper of record for Cecil County, we aim to be the place you get accurate information. We want to be the place you come to celebrate the incredible people in the county, and we want to be the place you come to read about what’s happening in your government and, yes, with your political leaders and candidates. We take great pride in our call of duty, and we take great joy in seeing anyone — no matter what their political leanings — being civically engaged. 
 
With the advent of social media especially, we work even harder and with much, much less. Resources are scarce, and integrity in reporting is one of our most important currencies. 
 
Danielle Hornberger, a candidate for County Executive, has posted a portion of an email she received from our deputy editor requesting answers to questions for an article that published yesterday and is in the paper today. She is claiming that she requested one business day to answer those questions, which she did not. We have a process for working with sources who ask for extra time on a time sensitive, deadline-driven story. We did not engage that process, because the request was not made.
 
Confusingly, the candidate is also alleging that the current County Executive has any modicum of input or control over what we publish in our paper. That is also obviously untrue.
 
The Cecil Whig has no business or editorial arrangement with any governing body. We are members of the fourth estate, and it is our job to report on the machinations of government, no matter who is at the helm.
 
The Cecil Whig staff reached out to Ms. Hornberger at 1:10 p.m. yesterday and left a phone message. Our deputy editor had a 4 minute phone conversation with her at 3:13 p.m. yesterday, where the candidate said she would not answer our questions over the phone, because she said she did not trust the Whig. Our deputy editor asked if she wanted to receive questions via e-mail, or if she preferred to provide a statement. Though widely available, he sent his e-mail address to her in a text message at 3:18 p.m.
 
Hornberger stated a preference to provide a statement. He gave her his deadline time, and she said she would try to get him a statement by that time, but couldn’t promise. She also made a friendly comment about his Southern accent. 
 
At 4:45 p.m., the candidate sent an e-mail saying she needed questions. We were not expecting that. The Cecil Whig staff responded with a list of questions at 4:58 p.m. We knew there was a risk of being seen as unreasonable out of context, but we continued on in earnest and could not get questions answered over the phone. We sent questions in good faith, despite discussing the risk of a Facebook post with a screenshot like the candidate has posted. Ms. Hornberger has already called us “fake news” in a campaign video.
 
As of the time of writing this editorial, the candidate has not responded to our questions.
 
More and more, we see that political figures and candidates are calling local news and other media sources “fake news.” It is in vogue to do so, and we see it nationwide.
 
Again, we are the paper of record for your county — your home. Our pages throughout history speak for themselves, just as they do today. We cannot convince you we are not “fake news,” but we can continue to earnestly abide by journalistic standards and ethics and hope you will come to your own conclusions.
 
It is our great honor to be your source for local news, and our great relief to continue our purposefully apolitical work.

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