There are people who don’t want you to read The Sun Bay Paper. Since we commenced publishing one month ago, two places have refused to let our newspapers onto their property. One is Santini Marina Plaza on the south end of Fort Myers Beach. The other is Key Estero Shops, also on Fort Myers Beach. Of course, there are well over a hundred places that do welcome our newspaper.
While there are legitimate policy reasons for a private property owner to keep newspapers off their property, when one like The Sun Bay Paper is singled out, there’s usually a bad reason and it’s not usually that hard to see. We well know why Santini Plaza and Key Estero have refused; they don’t like what we’ve had to say about the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce. In the case of Key Estero, both the Chamber and their close neighbor –The Island Sand Paper Newspaper - rent offices on the property.
How do we know this for sure? Well, it’s quite evident to us. First of all, the manager of Santini Plaza told us directly when asked if we could distribute The Sun Bay Paper, “Can we put a paper box where all the others are?” “No”. This denial came on the heels of a conversation where the manager of the plaza - Al Durrett - said he “didn’t want us to write anything bad about the Ft. Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce.
Key Estero phrased it a little bit different. They called and said we “hadn’t gotten their permission” to put the box right beside the other 3 or 4 newspapers and 8 to 9 brochure racks. They told us to “take ours out”. When we pointed out that one of us owned The Island Sand Paper for over ten years and that the box they now had was placed there by him the same way and in the same place the current one was placed, the reply, and a rather rude one at that, was “No, you can’t have a box here” with The Island Sand Paper, The Observer and Florida Weekly.
Of course not. They aren’t rocking any boats. We don’t care if a newspaper wants to print everything’s a rose garden, spreading “kudos” to everyone where they circulate. We don’t care if a paper chooses to avoid hard cutting issues and write only soft, human interest tales. We don’t care if a paper refrains from digging into matters so as not to offend any potential advertisers. We know that route and we’ve done some of those things ourselves. But that’s not what The Sun Bay Paper is doing now. We’re publishing what we learn, what we know, what people tell us and what’s obvious.
If a reader calls us and says, “Would you find out why there is a large pot in the middle of my street and what it is?” When we go to that street and look at the pot and it smells something like crap, looks like crap, then stick a finger in it, it feels like crap, you can bet we aren’t going to report “We found a rose garden or pot of potpourri in your street” We’re going to call it what it is and try to find out who put it there and why. We’re than going to tell our readers, all of that, as well.
Getting back to attempt to suppress our distribution, we know the reasons why it’s being done and we know the players. We also know the Beach Chamber and we know they owe money to good credible local people for several reasons. We have given them an opportunity to “tell their side” and their pat answer is one of two: “I don’t know what you’re talking about” and “I won’t talk to The Sun Bay Paper”. I bet they won’t. If what we say is a lie they can sue us for libel. That’s printing things that aren’t true, but if what we say is true then we would be doing readers a disservice to keep quiet about any wrongs being done in our area of circulation. No matter how hard a small group tries to keep you from reading The Sun Bay Paper, we know you’ll simply find us in the other 140 locations where we do circulate freely. In places where no one is trying to keep you from the facts even if they aren’t a “rose garden”.
We don’t have any desire to rock the boat just to see it rock. We want to be fair and we do enjoy publishing “good news” and much of what we print is about the good people of our area. But we won’t be intimidated. We called Mr. Al Durrett just before press time to ask again about circulating at the plaza newsstand. He said “maybe when you stop reporting on the Chamber, I’ll reconsider”.
You decide if that’s the kind of paper you want.