Friday, January 13, 2012


A new war started this week in Oshkosh.  It's not a new War on Drugs or a grudge match between Oshkosh North and Oshkosh West in some sport.  Instead, it is the personal war that Oshkosh School Board President John Lemberger has declared on the Oshkosh Northwestern newspaper.

(Side note, since Lemberger does not return calls from WOSH Radio, I'm guessing he doesn't listen to our school board coverage--or else he would probably be pretty upset with us as well.  I'm guessing he is more of an NPR "All Things Considered" listener)

Lemberger went on a 10-minute and two-second rant during the School Board meeting Wednesday night railing against what he perceives as negatively-biased coverage of the Board and district administration.....

"I am going to be on the Northwesten like a biting sow.  And they had better up their journalistic integrity."

None of my friends growing up "in the country" raised pigs on their farms--so I'm not sure if sows are tenacious as wolverines or honey badgers.

Lemberger started by taking umbrage to the Sunday Northwestern headline "School Superintendent Resigns".  Lemberger believes that is "factually inaccurate" since the School Board has to "agree to let the superintendent resign" before he can resign.  I guess the more accurate headline would have been "Viegut Wants Out of Town".

Next Lemberger attacked stories about School Board discussions of closing Oaklawn Elementary School during improperly noticed closed session meetings this summer--which was raised by Boardmember Ben Schneider II in an interview here on WOSH Radio..................

"There's been some innuendo about that.  In particular a meeting that I did not attend on June 22nd.  If the Northwestern has evidence that the law was broken they should turn it over to the DA so it can be prosecuted--because it is a crime to withhold evidence of a crime.  If you don't, then stop reporting it."

This is classic obstructionist posturing right there.  First, Lemberger admits that he wasn't in the meeting cited by Schneider--which begs the question: how then would he know that improper items were not discussed?  And secondly, a transcript of the closed session was not entered into the record of the meeting--so the only people who have "evidence of criminal activity" are the six board members, the administrators and the clerk who kept very general minutes of the conversation in that room.  And one of the people in that meeting is on the record as saying items not listed on the agenda and not covered by closed session statutes were discussed. 

And then Lemberger railed against the paper's use of school capacity numbers--which have been cited in the debate over the need for a new Oaklawn................

"I'd love to see the source for your numbers.  If they came from the school district, we've already told you there were wrong.  So why do you keep printing them?"

So the School Board President admits that erroneous information was provided to the reporter.  Did you hear him offer up the correct information?  That was the main point of his entire ten minute rant: "correcting the errors in the newspaper".  So put the "correct" capacity percentages out there.  Or are you worried they would still not make the schools look "full enough"?

In his screed, Lemberger cited an adage from Mark Twain and called him a "pretty good journalist"--missing the fact that Twain wrote fiction and was a satirist.  Perhaps he should have instead read the old adage "Never start an argument with a man who buys ink by the barrel".

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