NDakota Reporter Quits, Claims Newspaper Suppresses Critical Letters to the Editor

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A former North Dakota newspaper editor submitted a "scathing" column critical of his newspaper under a pseudonym. See above. (Credit: Inforum, screenshot)

The editor, Lee Morris, wrote a “scathing column about concerns” with the newspaper, the Valley City Times-Record,  in mid-August. His criticisms were partially in response to the late July firing of the newspaper’s former publisher Nikki Zinke.  Morris resigned shortly after his column was published.

The Times-Record is a five day a week afternoon paper with a circulation of about 5,300, according to Inforum. Valley City has 6,500 residents.

Inforum published the letter, under the phone headline and byline “An American pastime and politics” by Gene Lyons, here. Morris did sign it at the end with his real name. He labeled his critical report “under the guise of a syndicated column on Monday’s opinion page” so that it wouldn’t be cut before publication, Inforum reported.

In the column, Morris praised Zinke as “a smart and gifted leader” and claimed she shifted the newspaper from being “controlled by well-connected individuals and advertisers” to an independent news outlet.

He claimed the Times-Record’s parent company, Horizon, “does not care about Nikki’s exemplary leadership or the difference we made under her direction. Horizon does not care about this town. Horizon believes it can increase profits and will take any measure necessary to do so, including catering to the wishes of local businesses and officials.”

He also claimed that Tina Olson, “the paper’s production manager,” had wanted the former publisher, Finke, fired.

The column slams Olson, but noted “she did have help in stealing what has been valid journalism, meaningful information that affects people’s lives, away from you, the reader.”

Morris claimed that the Valley City Times-Record’s “faraway owners” are more concerned “about the company’s profit margin than delivering quality news.”

He also claimed the newspaper “is headed for happy land and bad journalism.”

He alleged the newspaper’s publisher, Leonard Martin, instructed him not to “publish letters to the editor that included personal attacks against…city officials.”

The Crookston Times noted that Valley City “has had its share of controversy,” suggesting that the Times-Record would have a good deal of political and environmental issues to report on for the area.

iMediaEthics is writing to the Times-Record for comment and will update with any response.

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NDakota Reporter Lee Morris Quits, Claims Newspaper Suppresses Critical Letters to the Editor

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