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Political sign swiping scandal sign of the times

Politics can often produce strange bedfellows, as witnessed recently in a sign-swiping case in Spring Lake Township.

The case also provides a clear example of why we need to differentiate between professional journalism and citizen (read: amateur) commentary.

Signs touting Ferrysburg City Councilwoman Regina Sjoberg for mayor in the November election recently disappeared from a Spring Lake Township yard. That much is true.

While Spring Lake Township residents do not vote in city of Ferrysburg elections, the yard in question is in close proximity to Ferrysburg city limits and is on a street that accesses neighborhoods in the city. So it makes sense that they were there.

But apparently there is a township ordinance that forbids political signs more than a month outside an election, so Township Clerk Carolyn Boersma either removed them or had them removed.

That understandably upset Sjoberg.

And it also brought self-described “political nerd” Brandon Hall into the fold.

Hall wrote about the incident on his West Michigan Politics blog. However, he got some of the facts wrong and posted a photo of a Spring Lake Township resident with his story, a man who has nothing to do with the case. Now that man, former Township Trustee Rick Homan, is also understandably upset with Hall.

“Misery and corruption seems to follow (Hall),” Homan told the Tribune for a Sept. 12 story.

The photo Hall posted of Homan with Boersma, by the way, is a Grand Haven Tribune photo. Although he gave the Tribune credit for it, Hall did not ask us for permission to use it.

Sjoberg is also upset with Hall. He quoted her in his blog post, but Sjoberg told Tribune reporter Marie Havenga that Hall didn’t talk to her and he unfairly jumped to some conclusions.

“I don’t know him. I haven’t spoken to him,” she told Havenga. “I don’t have a high opinion of him. I don’t even know how he would have gotten this information. The only thing on my Facebook page was that the sign thief had been caught.”

Sjoberg is running against fellow Councilwoman Rebecca Hopp for mayor, but there’s no indication that Boersma or her husband, who Hall accuses of stealing the signs, are supporters of Hopp, as Hall claims. In fact, Spring Lake Township Supervisor John Nash disputes that notion.

“To think she did it to be a thief or to help (Hopp), there’s no basis for those statements,” Nash told Havenga.

There’s room in this world for citizen journalism, but the irresponsible presentation of “alternative facts” has no place, and could lead to serious issues such as slander or libel.

This is why newspapers staffed by professional journalists remain an important part of a community — because they take the time to check sources and tell the real story.

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