A Letter From the Editor

Sundae Horn

Dear Readers, here's my first ever editorial:

Recently, the Ocracoke Current has come under some criticism for printing letters to the editor from Ocracoke residents. As editor, I realized that it’s time for me to clarify the Ocracoke Current’s purpose and mission.  

The Ocracoke Current strives to provide accurate and timely news and information about Ocracoke Island. We cover Ocracoke current events, news, and culture. We post press releases from local, state, and federal agencies that are of interest to our readers, and press releases from Ocracoke organizations and businesses. 

We like to write our feature stories in an informal manner to match the laidback island vibe. If I had to write AP style, I just wouldn’t do it. It’s boring and I don’t like to read or write boring articles. I encourage other Current contributors to find their unique voices and write the stories that interest them. We strive to be funny and irreverent, but not mean. We think good humor punches up, aimed at those with power. 

We give our readers – both on and off the island – the opportunity to comment and contribute. We love to hear from our readers, on the website and on our social media. 

We welcome letters to the editor, which are often open letters to government entities, organizations, or the community as a whole. Letters to the editor often address issues that are difficult for Ocracoke residents to discuss. The Current doesn’t shy away from controversial subjects. It’s not my job, nor any news editor’s, to fact check letters to the editor. I’m not obligated to publish letters, of course, but I do because I want readers to know they have this outlet. (You can send your letter to ocracokecurrent@gmail.com)

Last night, at a public meeting hosted by the Ocracoke Civic and Business Association (OCBA), their employee, Helena Stevens, singled me out because of a letter to the editor that she didn’t like. She started off her comment saying that the way Ocracoke is represented on social media reverberates with our visitors and often makes Ocracoke look bad, and then she looked at me and complained specifically about the Current. The crux of her complaint was that Element Advertising (the recipients of $110,000 of Ocracoke occupancy tax revenues) had called her and was unhappy with the letter. She said that posting the letter showed “a lack of poise and tact” and “wasn’t handled the right way.” 

Helena needs a reminder: my job isn’t Ocracoke PR. That’s her job.

I didn’t write the letter, although I can vouch that the facts are verifiable. The letter writer sent it to me for publication (after she didn’t get a response from OCBA and TDA). It represents the opinions of the letter writer and wasn’t endorsed by the Current. 

I shared the link to the letter on the Current’s Facebook page, as I do with all material I publish, because it drives traffic to the Current’s website. On Facebook the post garnered several comments and shares. People are reading it. It created “buzz.” That’s exactly what editors want to hear. I make money by selling ads; advertisers want to know how many people look at the website; social media clicks are my bread and butter. That’s the nature of my business.

A famous axiom about newspapers is that they should “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” I would like to think that the news and information the Current has provided about Hurricane Dorian recovery has offered some comfort to the afflicted in these past two months. We’ve shared heartbreaking stories from Ocracoke residents because we know that stories are how we connect with each other and feel compassion. We share information about ways to help Ocracoke and ways that Ocracoke residents can get the help they need. And we’ve told the truth about the recovery process on the island, which doesn’t fit into a slick advertising campaign.  

As for afflicting the comfortable, if Element Advertising was a tiny bit worried that their $11,000 a month client might rethink their contract, then so be it.  

Since October 1st, I have suggested that Helena Stevens, who is the Executive Director of OCBA (with a salary of $60,000/year, which is more than the average ferry captain makes) send out press releases about Ocracoke’s path to recovery and our expectations for welcoming visitors back to the island. She hasn’t yet.  

Into that void comes the Facebook discussions, the conjecture, the questions, the banter, the arguments. Good information dispels rumors. Honesty and transparency quell frustration. I don’t know why OCBA won’t send out useful, thoughtful, positive, grateful, inspired Ocracoke information presented in what Helena considers the “right way.” The TDA, which funds Helena’s position and the advertising campaign with Element, has a mandate to sell Ocracoke to you. The purpose of the 2% occupancy tax that the TDA distributes is to promote visitation to the island. It’s their job to make us look polished and pretty for the people.

That’s not my job. 

The Ocracoke Current is brimming over with stories that make our readers fall in love with Ocracoke all over again as they read and share them. But we don’t have to always paint a rosy picture. My job is to share what’s happening, warts and all.  

Ocracoke is not an amusement park. We are not putting on a show. Real people live here, and most of us have just gone through the most devastating natural disaster of our lives. Tensions are high; we are facing real loss, real struggle. Some Ocracoke residents care passionately about local issues – enough to write letters to the editor, to attend public meetings, to speak out, to call government officials, to march in the streets, to volunteer on boards, to help shape the community they want Ocracoke to be. Sometimes these people are at odds with one another. That’s the real Ocracoke, and if our visitors can’t handle us at our post-Dorian worst, then they don’t deserve us at our best.




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