A conversation about where newspapers should be kept inside the Winnebago County Administration Building became the center of conflict between a local publisher and a member of the county board last week.
The incident began Wednesday, Oct. 29, when a front-desk volunteer was approached by Winnebago County Board member Gary Jury, R-7. According to the volunteer, Jury demanded that two copies of The Rock River Times sitting on the desk be removed.
“He said he didn’t like the paper or the people and that he didn’t want the papers there,” volunteer Jerry Broyles said.
The exchange prompted The Rock River Times’ Editor & Publisher Frank Schier to reach out to Jury for clarification of why his papers are suddenly not permitted on the desk. Schier said he’s been receiving reports that The Rock River Times has been disappearing from the Administration Building, one of Schier’s 2,500 commercial distribution points, for many years.
During a phone call placed on speakerphone Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 29, Schier asked Jury if he had been throwing copies of The Rock River Times in the trash. Jury said he had not. The District 7 representative said he instructed Broyles to move the papers to The Rock River Times’ rack in front of the building to prevent the desk from becoming cluttered.
“I told him, ‘Sir, we don’t put newspapers on the counter,’” Jury said. “‘There is a rack for them out front. You are here to volunteer to serve the public, not clutter up the counter with a bunch of newspapers.’”
According to Broyles, two copies of the The Rock River Times are hand-delivered to the front counter every Wednesday in addition to the bundle that refills the rack just beyond the Elm Street entrance.
“Usually, people take them right away,” Broyles said. “So, Gary probably doesn’t ever see them. Today, he saw them there and he didn’t like it. He came down later and apologized for being harsh.”
In his conversation with Schier, Jury maintained the counter is reserved for county business and should be kept clear of reading material.
“The counter is not for your newspapers,” Jury said. “I also don’t want the Register Star cluttering up the counter. You don’t put newspapers all over someone’s desk. Don’t put your newspaper on the counter.”
To Schier, the counter belongs to the taxpayers, who he says have a right to public information placed on it.
“If you’ve been following our Facebook page, you know we’ve had many incidents lately where people are dumping our papers,” Schier said. “That’s an insult to the staff of this paper who work so hard to put it out, a matter of theft in that we are a commercial concern, and an act of suppression of free thought for our readers who cannot obtain that issue because it has been removed.
“On Wednesday, Oct. 29, we received a call stating that a county board member had removed our papers from the counter at the Administration Building on Elm Street,” Schier continued. “I went over there immediately, and was told Gary Jury had angrily stated, ‘This is my counter, my building, and I don’t like that paper, and don’t want it on this counter.’ He then picked up the offending two papers and put them in the rack in the breezeway between the inner and outer doors. I was also informed that earlier this year, Chairman Scott Christiansen had also picked up our papers off the same reception counter and given them to the volunteer with a negative comment to get them off the counter. I was infuriated. Their actions show an obvious bias against this paper, and I consider it an affront to the freedom of the press, free speech and fair trade. I went upstairs to Christiansen’s office and angrily demanded to see Christiansen. He sent out one aide and then another and refused to see me. I said I’d like Jury sanctioned in front of the county board and an apology from Christiansen. Right, ha! Jury had the courage to call the office, and when I told him to keep his hands off my papers, he said to take the issue to State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato. Right, ha! Jury and Christiansen’s actions are indicative of what’s wrong with this county. I’ve had reports for years about The Rock River Times being thrown out in a cowardly manner by politicians and their staff whom this paper tells the truth about.
“For all the good it did, it was revelatory to know some hidden faces in two instances of what I know has been going on for years,” Schier said. “What makes me really angry is that I can’t do a damn thing about it, but tell you, our readers. They can move our papers away from taxpayer-created areas, and others can even dump them in trash bins as we’ve showed on Facebook, but we will keep on telling you, our readers, the truth, no matter what.”
From the Nov. 5-11, 2014, issue