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Rena Brodhurst and the Rest of Us

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Dear Source:

Like many others I'm glad the election is over. A nasty campaign left a few scratches; hopefully none of them will turn into permanent scars, and while the less fortunate are licking their wounds, Virgin Islanders are getting back to business as usual. There is, however one thing that has changed for me, and I wonder how many out there feel the same: I'll never read The AVIS the same way I used to.
Let me first say, that The AVIS has always been the paper I bought in the morning on my way to work. Since I came here in 88, The AVIS has faithfully provided me with local news. The editorials, the letters and the issues taken up and highlighted with good journalism and decent writing, all of it worked for me.
I have never met Mrs. Brodhurst, wouldn't recognize her if I passed her on the street, but I like most of her editorials that she either wrote or approved and I never felt I was being taken for a ride. That is until the start of the gubernatorial election campaign!
To many readers it became clear early on that Mrs. Brodhurst was leaning towards Kenneth Mapp, and why not? She had publicly declared that she supported Crucian 'independence' and I expected her to be just as honest in this political race and announce her endorsement of the Mapp team, the sooner the better.
It never happened.
Instead we saw The AVIS slowly but surely morph from a regular newspaper into a manipulating campaign flyer, all in the name of the freedom of the press.
We all remember the Epstein story, but what got me was Mrs. Brodhurst's fierce defense of the relevance of this FrontPage story and her denial that this had anything to do with politics. (Read Emmett Hansen's excellent write- up in The St Croix Source. This man knows how to write!)
If I was puzzled before, I was astounded now. Did Mrs. Brodhurst really believe that her readers couldn't see right through this scam? I felt utterly stupid having paid 75 cents to someone who obviously thought I was dumb enough to be manipulated this way.
There was still a chance for Mrs. Brodhurst to come clean all the way up to the Runoff Election, but instead of being honest she chose to stay in sniper position and conduct what in my home country (Denmark) is called 'back door journalism'.
Why didn't any of her staffers or associates warn her that she was sliding into the gray area of unethical conduct? That she had gone from relative impartiality to becoming an ill-concealed manipulator?
Instead she 'stayed the course' culminating in the Nov.19 weekend issue, just two days before the final election. In this issue the deJongh camp had a two-page campaign add. Full-page ads do not come cheap, and I'll assume, that ultimately some of the money goes into Mrs. Brodhurst's pocket. I still keep this issue. It clearly shows what happens when an Editor chose to cross the line of decency and venture into the land of manipulation: Well before you got to the campaign adds on page 10 and 11 you were confronted on page 5 with a headline and a full page designed to diminish or eliminate the impact of those adds, basically saying: Don't believe a word of what you read on page 10 and 11.
Imagine paying for an ad only to have the AVIS say that the ad is a scam. Would you want your money back?
The page 5 article was signed 'Avis Staff'. Does that mean that the entire Avis Staff had written it? OR, was someone trying to hide behind this anonymous signature? Your guess is as good as mine.
No, I'll not boycott the AVIS like someone has suggested. I will, however read it with a somewhat different attitude than before. If Mrs. Brodhurst can do it once, it is likely she will do it again. Freedom of the Press is a wonderful thing. It can be used but it can also be abused. There is a thin line between not being truthful and lying. Whatever you think, there is no question that The AVIS in this case did not behave as you expect a proper paper to behave.
I'm Steffen Larsen, and I approve of this message.
Steffen Larsen
St. Croix

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