Dear Editor,

Wayne Levante, a self-described moderate, business-friendly mayor of Newton since his appointment 8 months ago, has been mired by one misstep and controversy after another.  From peddling debunked conspiracy theories about student “crisis actors” in the Parkland, Florida mass school shooting on social media, attacking residents and calling them “trolls” should they disagree with his statements, as well as attempting to humiliate and belittle volunteer members of the Newton Board of Education and PTO.

His latest attack on the free press, specifically Rob Jennings, ironically in the name of the first amendment of the Constitution, is dangerous and unconscionable.

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In response to media coverage of his activities on Facebook, Levante made threats to the free press (see image of email he recently written to the Star-Ledger.)  Since he chose not to take the recommendation of his own council to resign after receiving a vote of no confidence, the voters of Newton will decide his fate on May 8th. I offer no comment or judgement on this decision.

I am, however, offering the following five tips for elected officials:

1.    Don’t post controversial conspiracy theories with commentary on social media.

2.    If you are called out for posting conspiracy theories about controversial issues, apologize immediately.

3.    If you refuse to take responsibility for your actions, don’t blame your constituents or the free press.

4.    When the free press does choose to step into your news-less bubble, don’t try to hold hostage the journalist that asks “why”. Journalists use a very simple system when writing a story, the 5 w’s.

5.    If you choose to blame the free press, don’t make a list of terrorist-like demands requesting that they publish a story that show you in a more ‘favorable’ light and ban them from your territory. Tyranny conflicts with the first amendment.

I acknowledge that in our region of Northwestern New Jersey, elected officials are not accustomed to the free press infringing on their territory.  Hang in there guys, there will be an adjustment period.

For some reason, there is a misconception that a news agency’s purpose is to reflect the mindset of the people, but actually, it’s role is to reflect the truth.  And the truth cannot be held hostage. 

Sincerely,

Meghan Gill

Newton