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Hearing Report 'one-sided'

Hearing Report 'one-sided' image
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tíitor, We News: ' L je: Recent article in The News on the riend of the Court:" i Nov. 15, 1973, the Washtenaw CounIdvisory Committee on the Status of fien (appointed by the County Board of Commissioners), and the National Organization for Women, cosponsored a well-attended public hearing on Washtenaw County's Office of the Friend of the Court (WCOFC). When The News failed to print any notice in the week following the hearing, we (the sponsors) began receiving calis from people who asked why there was no coverage in the i county's largest newspaper. We could only refer these calis to The News for an answer. On Nov. 26, The News printed an - cle on the "Friend of the Court." Rather 1 than providing any in-depth coverage of the issues and facts of the hearing, The I news conducted its own private I ing" by interviewing WCOFC personnel, I none of whom had responded to our fl I mal invitations to attend the public ■ I ing. The News reporter selected some 1 specific grievances cited; these, removed H from the overall context of the hearing, I iprovided WCOFC personnel an effective 1 lopportunity to publicly gloss over the ■ Ireal underlying issues by attributing I Icomplaints to the "personal problems" I lof divorce-affected individuals. The I I reporter made no effort to check any of I I her material with the sponsors of the I I hearing, either before or after her I I views with WCOFC personnel. I On Dec. 26, 27, and 28, a followup ■ I ries appeared in The News. This series 1 I devotes most of its content to further ■ I interviews, presenting an array of "ex-B I pert" defenses from WCOFC personnel; I I and from Circuit Court judges and 1 1 ty Commissioners (all of whom are, ml I various ways, politically responsible forB I the operations of the Office of the Friend ■ I of the Court). Again, no effort was made! I to discuss the issues with the sponsors of I I the hearing (who, under the circum-1 I stances, constitute the only "experts" in-i I terested in representing the clientèle as 1 B a class). At only one point did the series cjepart I I from its one-sided presentation, in I I ing Frieda Ramseur, supervisor of child I I welfare services of Child . and Family I I Service of Washienaw County, in the I I Dec. 27 article. Fpr the most part, the I I persons who were extensively quoted I ■ were placed in the difficult position of I I having to respond to questions vaguely I ■ related to a hearing about which they I had little or no accurate knowledge. (If I I The News had provided full coverage of I I the hearing, embarrassment to these I I public officials might have been I led.) ■ The operation of the WCOFC will asBsuredly be a political issue in future Helections: Divorced parents and their + JUóKCê I 'chöaren.who are the captive clientèle ofB the WCOFC, presently constitute 10 perB cent of the county's population, and theB divorce rate is accelerating. Attitudes I and operational policies of the WCOFC I affect all divorced and divorcing 1 lies, for whom contact with this agency I not only constitutes a prerequisite to 1 taining a divorce, but a continuing threat I to the peace and security of their I divorce lives. If, in fact, it is really ■ necessary to place the population of ■ divorce-affected families under the I diction of a governmental agency, it is I equally necessary to protect the human I rights of this population through clear ■ and effective representation. 9