Recently I’ve received a series of emails and Facebook messages relating to legal proceedings against former Carter County superintendent of schools Dr. Ronnie Dotson.
In addition to a private suit brought against Dotson and his son, Jacob, in Boyd County there appeared to be several cases involving the Commonwealth v Ronnie Dotson filed in Pike County courts according to information shared from the Kentucky Court of Justice site at kcoj.kycourts.net. (UPDATE: On the day of publication we received copies of the legal filings from the cases forwarded to us in previous weeks. Not only were they for minor traffic infractions, they relate to a different Ronnie and Jacob Dotson. There are no state suits against either Dotson at this time, only the civil complaint from former business partners.)
In addition to the cases brought against the senior Dotson, his son Jacob is also named in personal suits in Boyd and Johnson counties, and in a suit brought by the Commonwealth in Pike County.
This information was first brought to our attention in late January, just before an article about the Boyd County case appeared in the Ashland Daily Independent.
We intended to review the Pike County cases at that time, once we were able to obtain copies of the court records. However, due to inclement weather, our publisher’s event in Pikeville was cancelled and we haven’t made it down there to review the court records in full yet.
At least one of the cases against Jacob Dotson, however, does appear to be an arraignment for failure to wear seat belts – not anything related to his or his father’s business dealings. We were only able to review that case online, though, because it did have a hearing date associated with the filing. The other cases do not, which makes searching out the records online more difficult.
It isn’t impossible, it just isn’t something we’ve had the time or resources to do.
Because of this, however, we’ve received a few emails about the lack of coverage, including one from an individual accusing us having a “liberal bias” and conspiring to “hide the truth” from the people of Carter County.
The truth, however, is much more banal.
We simply don’t have the resources to send people running down to Pikeville, or even running over to Catlettsburg, to dig through court documents all day.
We have one full time employee to cover all county government, city government, and community news in Carter County. We also now have one part time employee who covers sports almost exclusively – because that was another need identified by our readers.
What the coverage we do take pains to provide all has in common is that it is all related to Carter County. Not Boyd County. Not Pike County. Carter County. We are the Carter County Times, after all, and our primary focus is what is occurring within this county.
Yes, these events related to our former superintendent might be of interest to some folks in Carter County. If they’re interested in how a court case is proceeding in another county, though, they might not find it here.
There are some who would say it’s newsworthy, and they could legitimately argue that point. There are some that would argue it’s simply gossip fodder – especially now that Dotson is no longer actively involved in the running of Carter County schools – and they could make valid points as well.
The bottom line for us, however, is that it isn’t our first priority. If we’re able to find something worthwhile that expands upon or provides deeper context not covered in other news sources, we are willing to work on a story; just as we did when the PVA whistleblowers who spoke with the Ashland Daily offered us access to information not reported in the ADI coverage.
But the main reason we took on that story – knowing that it could cause us some political headaches when we did so – wasn’t just because we were offered additional information. It was because it was directly related to Carter County. That story (which, by the way, involves a Democratic office holder, and should put to rest any notion that we ignore evidence when it doesn’t fit our “liberal bias”) included information that could directly impact the county’s finances and funding.
That was why we reported on it.
Not because we have a conservative bias. Not because we have a liberal bias. But because we have a Carter County bias. We’re going to cover what’s happening here first. We’re going to cover things that impact the residents of this county first. That’s our priority.
Other stuff? We’ll get to other stuff as time and resources permit. When we do, we promise to take as comprehensive a look as possible.
But that isn’t what we’re here to do. We’re here to cover the things that are currently occurring inside this county, and the things that will continue to have an impact on the people living here.
As much interest as there might be in what’s happening with the Dotson family, their story doesn’t fit that bill. So, we’ll cover it when there has been some progress in any of the lawsuits brought against them. But never at the expense of our local coverage.