How I Got Fired, Chapter 83: A Rheinberger Email Is Received!
The following is the text of an email sent to my former editor at the Gazette, Micki Adams, by Margot Rheinberger, a prominent local citizen. This email is dated Tuesday, October 11th, and my editor fired me on Wednesday, October 12th, the day after she received it. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the cast of characters mentioned in the letter, they are:
John Rheinberger, a former City Council official who was defeated in the last election and is now a political candidate seeking a seat on the District 834 School Board. The election was only a few weeks away when I was fired; it will be held on November 8th.
Margot Rheinberger, his sister and defender; a prominent local citizen and the author of the email. I deduce from the tone of this email that Margot and John are very close.
Micki Adams, the recipient of this email, editor of the Stillwater Gazette. After receiving this letter, she told me I was no longer a columnist for the paper. I had been writing a regular column for the paper for more than two years.
William Prendergast, suave, handsome columnist for the Stillwater Gazette at the time of this writing. Unaware at the time of this email that his suave ass is about to be fired. To keep things in context—Bill Prendergast, to the very best of his knowledge, has never, ever, printed a lie, blatant or otherwise, about anyone. Please bear that in mind as you read what follows, and please bear in mind that though Ms. Rheinberger charges me with telling “lies”, she does not provide Adams with so much as a single example in support of that charge. And remember—John Rheinberger, the author’s brother, is a prominent local politician and candidate for political office--a very public figure.
Date: Tue, 11 Oct 2005 12:50:54 EDT
Subject: RE: Bill Prendergast's weekly column
I see that weekly columnist Bill Prendergast has continued to set your newspaper up for being reported to the Minnesota New Council and possibly even a lawsuit depending on what he writes next and who it involves.
Last year, he wrote columns against my brother, John, while my brother was running for reelection to the Stillwater City Council. He included blatant lies and vicious attacks on my brother's integrity and overall character. In fact, the Stillwater Gazette had knowledge from public record and from the eyewitness that what Prendergast had written was in fact all lies. I have saved all of this information.
Based on his column last Friday, Prendergast appears to be on a slippery slope and may have plans to do the same thing to my brother again this year during his run for School Board. Two of my advanced degrees are in law and mass communications and perhaps it is this background that makes it impossible for me to sit back again and allow a repeat of what happened last year.
Prendergast is using your newspaper as a conduit for lies, misinformation, and personal attacks not just against my brother but against anyone he has decided is conservative and therefore not worthy enough to serve our community as an elected official. In the process, your subscribership continues to significantly decrease but equally important, the credibility and integrity of your newspaper's reputation is on a downhill slide. When will the Gazette finally realize that his column is greatly hurting not helping your newspaper? Prendergast is helping to run it into the ground. The damage he has done and is continuing to do could negatively impact your newspaper for years.
You have been the best thing to happen to the Stillwater Gazette in years. I would be the first to say that to anyone and have said it to many including John Lund, the Gazette's publisher who also happens to be a neighbor of Prendergast's. However, allowing Bill Prendergast to continue to use his column to condemn people based on lies, misinformation and personal attacks with an obvious intent to harm a person's reputation is one of the Gazette's biggest mistakes ever.
You probably have limited or no control over whether Prendergast has a column, what he writes, or even whether his column on any topic/person and any content, regardless of it veracity, can be published. Therefore, I will just have to wait and see if one of his next columns of lies and vicious personal attacks involves my brother again. Should that occur, I will provide my brother with all of the solid documentation that I saved from last year and have him include it with this year's documentation as part of his complaint to the Minnesota News Council. I have a feeling that many others who have been the victims of Prendergast's venomous columns would enjoy making it a "class action" complaint if such a thing were to exist.
If it comes to that point where my brother needs to file a complaint with the publicity that will go with it, I hope that will be what it finally takes to enable you to begin fully restoring the integrity to our local daily newspaper. Unfortunately, it may be what is necessary for the Gazette to finally justify cutting the ties with someone who is obviously not at all concerned with the Gazette's integrity and its future viability.
In your case, I will always wish nothing but the best for you, Micki! Margot