It is indeed a sad day when the local newspaper condemns a volunteer organization without a legitimate basis. That may be bad enough but what adds insult to injury is when an unsigned opinion piece levies harsh criticism that strays far from the accurate reporting of fact and crosses the line into tabloid-like rumor and innuendo.
The July 30 Times piece addresses the Chagrin Valley Jaycees’ decision to cancel the Kelly Miller Circus. Threatening comments were made to a telemarketing firm hired by the Circus. This information was first communicated by a telemarketer to the Jaycees, who then reported it to the Chagrin Falls Police. A police report later verified the nature of the comments and that they were in fact communicated to the telemarketer.
The editorial assails the Jaycees’ decision to cancel the event based upon remarks by the police suggesting the threats were not credible from a law enforcement standpoint. That alone is all fine and good.
Then, without a shred of factual support, the CVT went a step too far by accusing the Jaycees of “defamation”. The CVT exclusively links the threats to animal rights activists and blames the Jaycees for tainting this group by canceling the event. The credible source for the Times’s connection? Only an undisclosed “indirect association.”
No one else has even suggested such a notion; including the police, Chagrin and South Russell government officials or even the Jaycees, but the CVT created the illusion and ran with it.
At the time that the threats were communicated to us, we found them to be sufficiently alarming to decide to cancel the event. That the police may later find the threats to not be credible was of no consequence to the decision as we value human lives and wanted to be proactive. The safety of our friends, family, performers and the community (including the peaceful protesters) could be in jeopardy.
Indeed, as accurately reported by other news outlets, both police departments later (and South Russell Village) supported our decision; important facts that were also left out of the Editorial.
We expected that many would be disappointed in the news – no more than my two young children. Yet when one accepts the responsibility of putting on events that are open to the public, safety must be the primary concern. If we were wrong, then we erred on the side of caution and no one was injured. We are proud of this and do not regret for one minute the decision we made.
But as this unfortunate episode demonstrates, responsibility is a two way street. We did not reach our decision based upon whether the police were going to press criminal charges or even if they would pursue any investigation. We did so independently and only after great consideration.
The citizens of the Chagrin Valley and the readers of the CVT deserve better, and the Chagrin Valley Jaycees deserve an apology. The Times should look into the mirror and perform a more thorough scrutiny of its own work before so recklessly condemning the good-natured actions of others.
President, Chagrin Valley Jaycees