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An Open Letter to Flagpole’s Pete McCommons and Chris Dowd

Athens is a wonderful place with wonderful people but for the past few years, it has had one major flaw. Entertainment tabloid-like media such as the Flagpole has decided to give a voice to writers who like to spread misinformation. 

Such misinformation, while entertaining to some, is contrived from partial truths laced with assumptions and far-reaching accusations. This form of controversy increases the circulation of papers like People Magazine, the Enquirer, Star, and such. 

One such writer I question at the Flagpole is Mr. Chris Dowd. Mr. Dowd likes to attack, bully, and spread misinformation for the sake of justifying his own personal views. From behind a computer, this task is easy, especially when the newspaper you work for doesn’t fact-check. Emotion and personal opinion should not be used to report news, as biased reporting to the point of inaccurate or partial vital information, is unethical. 

It may seem clever for a writer to give mostly facts while at the same time including innuendo and opinion in what is being presented as an actual "true" news article to support the writer's own agenda, but it's such a disservice to his readers.

Recently, in an article dated March 27, 2024,titled, Entrepreneur and Ex-ACC Auditor Seek Westside Commission Seat, the word “defamation” came to mind when writer Chris Dowd labeled me as "anti-government". I would like to correct Mr. Dowd's allegation. I am not anti-government. I believe in a responsive and attentive government formed by the people. I respect the local government body even though I disagree with some of their policy decisions, which appear to be based on ideology rather than effective public policy for the masses. Some of these policies may have contributed to an increase in homelessness, crime, and poverty. It is the right of the people to stand and demand a more accountable government by those elected.

I have and will continue to speak out against local politicians who abuse their power, which happens to resonate with many in the community. Mr. Dowd has a prevalent bias for the politicians that I speak against for pushing their own agendas instead of the community’s. By labeling me "anti-government" and using such language flippantly, I can only derive that he wants to discredit me or takes delight in tarnishing my name to make up for the times he disagrees with me. The problem is that he has allowed his emotions and biases to convolute his work, therefore diminishing his journalistic integrity. He does not define his terms nor provide any clear examples to justify his statement. To try and suppress someone else's voice while he has an unfettered medium for his own voice is an abuse of power. A false statement purporting to be fact is defamation. 

In 2019, a few progressives were voted into the local government. Many in the community had high expectations of them, but after 4 years, many now feel they have only brought division and hate on a social scale, and an increase in crime and poverty on a political one. They did this by not listening to the people who voted them in and by following their perspective and the perspective of their inner circle, instead of the people affected most.

I will now correct Mr. Chris Dowd publicly. I am not "anti-government", what I am is anti-corruption and anti-abuse of power within the local government. We should support our local government, but caring about Athens, also means criticizing the actions of local politicians when necessary. Former commissioner Mariah Parker, whose "conflict of interest" actions seemed to have ultimately led to her resignation was never investigated and she never appeared to have the support of the black community. Commissioner Jesse Houle no longer wants to be a commissioner. Perhaps because ignoring public input can only take you so far as an effective leader. Commissioner Melissa Link who is running for a second term is criticized by many for her divisive and irrational public rants. Carol Myers who is also running for her second term seems to have done very little for her own District 8. While the youth continue to struggle on the east side, she seems more occupied with raising her own salary and storm water fees, agreeing to eminent domain and wondering how much of her "passions" she can push onto Athens through her position on the commission. The mayor's recent press conference, one could argue, has shown to the nation that he is more focused on defending his own actions over the last 4 years and the interests of his inner circle rather than the safety and interests of his constituents. We cannot live in a world, where criticizing a self-interested government body, makes you anti-government. 

Therefore, I hereby publicly ask Mr. Chris Dowd to withdraw his false statement about me. There are people who still read and trust the Flagpole and expect accurate news. This accusation is inaccurate. I hope Mr. Pete McCommons and Flagpole, from hereon, will ensure their writers adhere to a higher standard of journalistic integrity if they wish to be regarded as a reliable source of news. 

Mara Zuniga


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Great article Mara!

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So you’re basically proving his point. You lost your election, Zuniga. It’s clear you weren’t a good fit for Athens. Especially if you think the current commissioners are the problem and not the ones making policies for decades before them. It’s clear you didn’t win because you lack the understanding of forethought and comprehension.

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Replying to

Commissioners from years past have all the blame on the high rises downtown. Homelessness wasn’t created by plans from the last 5 years…bad planning takes many years to rear its ugly consequences. Look at the war on drugs…started by plans in the 80s and look what we have now…it’s worse than ever. Drugs won that war and it wasn’t progressives that made that stupid war happen. Look at the Great Recession. That was caused by prior administrations than the one it occurred in…

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It's the Flagpole. It has always been a bit quirky. I know Pete from way, way back. I like Pete.

Sometimes, if I need to understand an emotional response to an issue I read some of the contributors.

Then I am better prepared to attempt to logically engage those that approach issues in overly emotional ways.


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Well, for one who complains of being maligned and misinterpreted, you appear to be doing the same,

As to comparing The Flagpole to a tabloid, that is absurd. The writer in question might recognize that you lean heavily to the right, but that’s not the quite the same as Elvis Gives Birth To Alien Baby,

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Shag2023
Shag2023
Apr 10
Replying to

Or …….he is actually writing misinformation and Flagpole, by allowing that, sets itself up to be more tabloid-like than a news media….At the beginning of the article it is stated that criticism towards the progressive politicians’ bad decisions is not being antigovernment—- or in your words complaining of being “maligned and misinterpreted”… you obviously did not read the article for its content rather you read with a pre set opinion…the fact that you try to align this as a “right” person’s issue, shows your bias….. common

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which way did they go....the comments poof gone


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