To the Editor:

I am writing in follow up to the March 24th article "Chatham Township Residents and Mayor 'Dialogue',Petitioners Unhappy with Wording of Proclamation."

Once again I urge community members and readers to gain a fuller breadth of the issue at hand by attending committee meetings or viewing the meetings' videos which preserves the complete public discourse. Exclusive reliance on one or two articles, anyone's letter to the editor including mine, 140 character tweets, or perceptions advanced by social media commentary are not a substitute for firsthand facts and are insufficient means of arriving at a well-informed, thoughtful opinion.

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Reporters are tasked with keeping the public informed and hopefully this duty is treated with the highest regard and integrity by the media. Yet reporters are not always able to quote in entirety each person speaking in a public forum all the time. Therefore some points are overlooked or missed. As a result, mere excerpts of a remark can sometimes mislead or confuse. For example, readers absent firsthand facts of the speakers' demeanor during the township meeting may erroneously conclude upon reading "residents chastising the Mayor" that those speakers at open forum berated, lashed out, or castigated the mayor. Certainly having convictions and strong opinions in public, if articulated in a respectful and peaceful fashion, does not equate to chastising. As well, a less informed reader might infer from the somewhat entendre use of the word 'dialogue' in the title that the mayor was resistant to any discussion, or perhaps cut short public commentary, neither of which was so. 

Facts are pivotal. Snippets of videos isolated or phrases extrapolated from complete sentences muddle . One needs only to take a cue from reporters themselves who go to events, check out sources, and hopefully rely on fact vs. hearsay before communicating and shaping opinion.

It is not uncommon at times for remarks to be retrofitted to take on a different meaning; only a discerning reader armed with full facts will recognize this. To illustrate, Ms. Doucette's many constructive and salient points made at open forum may be missed by the general public if one just focuses on an anecdotal conversation she had on a plane, framed by the quote (but not her sentiment) that Chatham is "20 years behind the times.".

Freedom of speech is chilled if a person must hesitate to say anything in public for fear of being taken out of context. Words are at risk of taking a different tone if not heard directly or when parsed from full text. Indeed, irrespective if one is in agreement with Mayor Ritter he did enjoy the opportunity to see his remarks fully presented to the public in this article while the remarks of his constituents who spoke were abridged.

In summary, it is reasonable, enlightened, and plain fair for everyone to open-mindedly approach critical topics, including but not limited to, the SDOC reasons and plans for new special education and administration offices, curriculum , school and town budgets, open space, affordable housing, camps, and yes proclamations by gathering information fully and firsthand rather than piecemeal and one-sidedly.

Thank you for the chance to express my view.

Jane Devlin 

Chatham