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Don’t shoot the messenger

Let me endure your wrath, if’t be not so.

The messenger in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” is quaking in his boots when he delivers the bad news to the king: Not only is his wife dead, but the woods of Birnam are alive with advancing enemies intent on killing him.

“If thou speak’st false,” Macbeth roars, “Upon the next tree shalt thou hang alive till famine cling thee.”

Mail Tribune reporters rarely get threatened with a slow, hungry death, but they do often get blamed when they report what others perceive as bad news — as if the reporters had something to do with it.

Such was the case late last month when Vickie Aldous wrote a story about the Jackson County commissioners denying a permit for the 10th annual Apple Jam Music Festival, planned for May 18-20. Neighbors complained its chosen location, in a quiet, agricultural area along Thompson Creek Road, wasn’t appropriate for myriad reasons — the narrow, winding road couldn’t accommodate the thousands of cars the festival attracts, there’s no cellphone coverage in case of emergencies, and the music, scheduled to last until 2 a.m., would be a nuisance.

The neighbors argued the festival has grown to a large enough public event that it needs to be staged in an appropriate venue with adequate infrastructure. The commissioners sided with the neighbors on a 2-1 vote.

Apple Jam organizers took exception to the Mail Tribune’s article, saying parts were “misinformative.” They pointed to neighbors telling commissioners they’d heard last year’s festival drew 4,500, when in reality fewer than 2,300 people attended. Vickie reported both those facts in the story.

The commissioners also heard a vegetable farmer say that when the festival was near Provolt, a concertgoer stole an employee’s vehicle. Apple Jam later said on its Facebook page the theft occurred during a completely different festival, but our story stands: This is what the commissioners heard. And everything they heard played into their decision to deny the festival’s permit.

Apple Jam organizers claimed Vickie’s report on the vote itself was misleading, as her story said Rick Dyer voted against “it.” Because of an editing error, the sentence was confusing, as Dyer did vote against the motion — which was to deny Apple Jam’s permit — but it could’ve been read as Dyer voting against the festival itself. We have since clarified it in our story online, but the result is the same. No permit.

Apple Jam’s troubles didn’t stop in Jackson County. Josephine County, too, rebuffed the festival when it proposed to move to a property somewhere along Williams Highway. Jo Co staff had read the Mail Tribune article, and Apple Jam organizers and fans believe it played into the festival’s ultimate demise for this year.

“You can thank this woman directly for her ignorant false report on applejam,” a Facebook commenter said, posting Vickie’s picture. “She wrote the article for the Mail Tribune. Her name is Vickie Aldous.”

Jo Co denied the festival not because of Vickie’s article, but because it was far too late for Apple Jam to get through the permitting process required for gatherings of more than 100 people.

We willingly endure readers’ wrath if something we wrote be not so. In this case, however, Vickie was simply being the messenger. Put the darts away.

Reach Editor Cathy Noah at cnoah@rosebudmedia.com.

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