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‘Rollercoaster’ sheriff poll

Among the many kernels of wisdom fed to young journalists is this — don’t become the story.

As the theory goes, when members of the media go from being the ones gathering the news to the people in the news, they inevitably lose their objective perspective because they are now inside the fish bowl instead of outside. And as such, they can no longer be trusted with a story about themselves.

This week — thanks to complaints about our online poll, how our poll functions and the general hysteria that accompanies all elections, and worsens as the election nears — The Press came close to becoming the story.

I don’t mean in the literal sense that would imply there was a chance that other news organizations (or us for that matter) would be reporting on what we do here from our Macclenny office. But rather in the sense that our actions caused what could be described as “news.”

Let me explain.

As you can see on the front page, this week’s online poll shows that incumbent Democrat Joey Dobson led his Republican challenger Cameron Coward 55 percent to 43.8 percent, with 1.2 percent of respondents indicating they were undecided about who they’re supporting for sheriff.

As of press time, the poll tallied 685 votes. Admittedly, three of the undecided votes were cast by yours truly while testing the poll’s settings early this week. Over the weekend, we received complaints via our Facebook page about people not being able to cast votes.

“I’ve had four friends call me saying they can’t vote … They said the site says, ‘You have already voted.’ Is this poll rigged?!” wrote George Doran, a supporter of Mr. Coward’s.

That comment was followed by this one from Kathleen Johnson: “I tried to vote and couldn’t … gawd … please don’t tell me our local paper is rigged!”

The poll was certainly not rigged to favor either candidate.

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Outraged by Mann trial coverage

Dear Editor:

I am writing to express my sincere disappointment with your publication of the story of October 18, 2012 Not guilty of child sexual batteries, votes Mann jury.

I am outraged that this story was published. Have you no consideration for the poor child who is now known to every reader of The Baker County Press? Whether the accused was found guilty or not, this story should never have been published. Whatever happened to protecting the identity of the victim [and yes, her identity will be known, because you published her father’s name]?

Did you not take into consideration that it will now be known by every person of Baker County, plus any others that read this publication, that this child considers herself a victim of sexual assault. Baker County is a small community and information spreads like wildfire.

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Speaks highly of BCSO cooperation

Dear Editor:

This summer I completed a sexual issues course at UNF as part of my graduate studies in clinical mental health counseling. I invited the coordinator of the rape crisis team from the Women’s Center of Jacksonville to speak with the class about how she and the team go about creating a sense of safety when intervening in sexual assaults and support of survivors.

I learned that the center also serves Baker County, and the coordinator spoke very positively about the way of sheriff’s department intervenes in these situations, and she contrasted it with law enforcement in other counties.

She said BCSO intervenes in ways that are respectful of rape survivors and demonstrates understanding of the trauma as well as in the disclosure and investigative process.

As a member of this community the past 20 years and a counselor nearing the end of clinical training, I appreciate the informed and supportive partnership that exists between our sheriff’s department and professionals who deliver services to crime victims, especially survivors of sexual assault.

The Women’s Center hotline is 904-721-7273 for support 24/7. Calls are confidential.

Jo Mamula

Glen St. Mary

Praise, not barbs for animal control

Dear Editor:

After reading the article in The Baker County Press last week concerning Baker County Animal Control, I would like to share my experience.

For nearly a decade I have had frequent interaction with Georgia Monfort and other animal control personnel, most recently Mr. Self. I regularly foster puppies for them and call for advice when I have unexpected “guests” that need to be trapped and removed from my property.

They have always been caring and kind. In fact, animals are shown for adoption at county events, including the upcoming Baker County Fair.

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