I have thought and prayed much in the past two weeks about whether or not to address publicly the political advertisement from Sheriff Scott Franklin that appeared in our Nov. 15, 2023 issue. When it first appeared, there was much controversy about the ad and allegations of me or this newspaper’s involvement in it, and so, for the integrity of this newspaper, I will offer the following response: Since purchasing this newspaper back in March, we have done our utmost to continue the legacy that Sammy Franklin established for 54 years as editor. The model of how to deal with elections that he set is the same model we followed during this recent Sheriff’s campaign.
At no time did we entered this race with any biased opinion or reporting, as we have stayed true to the model of being neutral on local political races, especially one as heated as this past Sheriff’s race was. We understood the parish was clearly divided in this particular race as evidenced with the final vote numbers; thus, we made great efforts to remain neutral.
We went through major lengths to make sure ad placements were rotated each week, not giving one candidate an advantage over another, and we worked just as hard to make sure each ad was to each candidate’s approval prior to publication.
The same model is followed when approving ads that are permitted to be ran in this newspaper. Ads that are placed are not the opinion of this newspaper, but rather the opinion of the person who placed the ad. Each political ad must be paid for in advance.
Controversial political ads are not new to elections, even in LaSalle Parish. Many past elections in our parish have drawn similar advertisements. I remember vividly past Sheriff’s elections where similar ads were ran and in other races, like LaSalle Assessor, when longtime Assessor Jimmy Dean was faced with a barrage of controversial ads (just as controversial as the Nov. 15th ad) from an opponent during his campaigns. Sammy Franklin allowed the ads to run as long as the person placing the ad was willing to place their name to the content and the newspaper could not be held liable.
Let me be very clear about the advertisement placed in the Nov. 15 issue that has drawn such large attention: The full-page ad found on page 8B was bought and paid for by Sheriff Scott Franklin. It was not an article from this newspaper and it was not endorsed by this newspaper. Our position in this Sheriff’s race was very noticeable from articles that we wrote (that are still accessible for review) and any social media posts that we constructed. At no time was any article slanted in one way or another to benefit either candidate, from the primary through the runoff. My family and I have not contributed financially to any campaign, and in fact, have never attended any political event sponsored by any candidate in our extreme caution to make sure we remained unbiased and neutral in this election and did not give the appearance of being biased.
The bottom line is this ad was not from this newspaper but it was a “paid advertiser” who submitted the advertisement. It would be no different than any other business accepting money for products or services they offer even though the paying customer is of a different political position than the owner.
I believe what has allowed people to think differently is the fact that Scott Franklin is my brother. While this is true, he will be the first to tell you that he has nothing to do with this newspaper. He does not own it nor does he have any influence on its operations. While he may have publicly endorsed a candidate, I did not and neither did this newspaper.
This ad was nothing more than one man’s opinion, who paid for the space to put his opinions in the public domain. The ad was marked in the bottom left as a “Paid Political Advertisement.” As Sammy Franklin has done in the past, I had the Sheriff provide me with evidence to support certain claims in the article that needed verification for us concerning liability, while others where simply his opinions and needed no verification.
While some believe the ad was slanderous and mudslinging, others simply viewed it as the Sheriff speaking what he believes to be true. Those interpretations are not for us, as a newspaper, to decide. That, along with who individuals ultimately vote for, is left up to the individual voter.
In a small parish, heated elections are often very divisive. Unfortunately, friendships are also impacted. I hope that the people of this parish will view the entirety of our work and reflect upon past issues to see that we did not take any sides in this Sheriff’s race but have remained neutral, just as we have been taught.
I would hope that our readers would not form an opinion of this newspaper based upon one, single advertisement but on all the content published on a weekly basis.
I fully understand that in the days that followed the advertisement appearing, tensions were high and emotions took over from many people. But even in the midst of all that, we still allowed our social media accounts to be “public” even when this newspaper was attacked. Had we had an ulterior motive or been campaigning for Lane Windham, we would have shut all of those avenues down.
I also appreciate the three individuals who contacted me personally. Even though they were strong Scott McLendon supporters and voiced their concerns of the ad, I appreciate the fact that they allowed me to share my side of the story in a true conversation fashion. We may not have agreed, but I will say they earned my respect for speaking to me personally.
We will continue to serve the people of this parish with honesty and integrity in all our reporting and will offer professional and fair advertising for all. We will continue to offer the coverage of all events for the betterment of LaSalle Parish, for this generation and generations to come. We will continue to strive for the advancement of our parish in all aspects and pray the wounds of elections will heal.
My door is always open and I welcome anyone to come speak with me, whether it’s concerning a political ad or any other issue or concern. I’ve always found that having an in-person conversation, especially on something controversial, is much more beneficial for everyone involved.