Asphalt issue story leaves out accuracy

Those who are depending on freshly produced asphalt being trucked out of the Lehman-Roberts Company plant site on Munsford Drive in New Albany, should not hold their collective breaths until the Circuit Court Judge rules on the litigation that is now being delayed by the City of New Albany, it’s Board of Aldermen and their appointed attorney from Pontotoc. This advisory is being issued as a result of some seriously flawed information being reported by a Northeast Mississippi newspaper.

According to the newspaper’s story (and a spokesman for the company), the plant is going to be up and running by March 1 and that the case now pending before the Circuit Court is over. The story went on to say that the plaintiffs and any other “opponents had a choice between embarrassment and reassurance upon learning toward the end of the legal process that another asphalt plant already had been operating nearby without being widely noticed.”

In our opinion, it would be very safe to say that very few people in New Albany, and then only those too young or too new to the city, did not know throughout this asphalt controversy that another asphalt plant was actively operating in that location. For any publication to report otherwise indicates they failed to talk to anyone who lives in New Albany. Any suggestion of embarrassment or even reassurance is a strong indicator that the much of the story was written by the company’s public relations person. 

Which brings us to the purpose behind this front page story in an out-of-town newspaper about an issue that is still awaiting a court review and decision.

In a public-relations story obviously generated by the asphalt company, this out-of-town newspaper mistakenly cited that the Attorney General had issued an opinion upholding the New Albany City Attorney and Board of Aldermen’s zoning decision when that opinion actually addresses the building permit and if a stay on that permit should be ordered while the zoning issue is still being decided. At the same time, the request for that opinion was intentionally absent of the full particulars of the issue and is also in question itself.

Far from being settled or decided by the Circuit Judge, the Lehman-Roberts Asphalt Plant, Munsford Drive issue is still very much alive and waiting to be addressed by that same Circuit Judge with who this newspaper apparently failed to talk. As a matter of fact, it appears the newspaper failed to talk with anyone other than the Lehman-Roberts official, who repeated many of the same statements and opinions presented during meetings of the New Albany Board of Aldermen in support of their position in the controversy. The story only lacked an appeal for potential buyers of asphalt to place their orders.

The prostitution of legitimate news stories to provide public relations for commercial enterprises is not new and, sadly, is practiced in many areas of the country, not by many newspapers, but usually by those who are inclined to place gain over ethics. Most newspapers call such stories “Advertorials,” but few, if any,  put them on the front page without some sort of identification that it is not legitimate news. Such practices are why the general public, many times, has such a low regard for the press and places only suspicious trust in those who report and publish the news.

The attorneys for Lehman-Roberts and the City of New Albany and the attorneys for the plaintiffs will attend a Circuit Court hearing on December 19 to consider motions before the court.

The judge has not set a court date nor has he ruled in this case.