The Coastal Star

Editor's Note: Irma, lawsuit affirm we’ll fight to keep publishing

    In between the National Hurricane Center’s every-three-hour updates, I grew anxious thinking what it would mean for our area to have the eye wall of a Category 4 or 5 Hurricane Irma blow directly up the I-95 corridor.
    “If the eye passes east of the lake, we leave. If it goes west, we stay.”
    That was the thin piece of logic I held to as we rushed through storm preparations. My husband was determined to stay regardless of the path. He’d laid the groundwork for survival — over the years we’ve hardened our 1950s-era house with a new roof, impact glass and accordion shutters. As a career photojournalist, he’d seen the aftermath of tornadoes and hurricanes, and he refused to get stuck in evacuation traffic jams. Plus, he had a generator and a chainsaw. He didn’t plan to bolt.
    I was the worrier. I had visions of our life forever altered by the storm.
    When you own a business and a Category 5 hurricane is heading in your direction, you tend to pace the floors and think through myriad scenarios of what could force you to wrap up loose ends, lock the doors and move on. Sadly, for many small-business owners across Texas, Florida and the Caribbean those nightmare scenarios are happening now. We are grateful to have avoided the life-changing situations so many others are now facing.
    We were lucky. Once our staff regained power and internet access, we were able to get back to business. Thankfully, so were our partners — our advertisers. We are grateful the residents and businesses in our slice of paradise survived with little more than power loss and tree damage.
    Will I stay on the island the next time a hurricane heads our way? I can’t say for sure, but I learned it will take a lot more than Irma to keep us from publishing a newspaper.
    And it will take more than a frivolous lawsuit from a prominent developer to keep us from reporting on stories in our community. A week prior to Irma’s arrival we received notice that Hudson Holdings LLC and Steven Michael had filed a $60 million libel suit against our publication.
    We were stunned. After the storm passed, our attorney talked with their attorney and we then had a reporter contact this same attorney for comment.
    The following week the case was dismissed without explanation.
    This was unexpected, but not a surprise. We stand by our reporting and believe the suit was nothing more than an attempt to intimidate and harass our publication.  

     In today’s world, litigation has become a standard tool of intimidation, and a yoke of so-called “fake news’’ has been placed around the necks of all news organizations no matter how small. This increases our commitment to getting the facts right and maintaining the trust of our community.  
    As professional journalists we work hard to lay the groundwork for survival each and every time we go to press. That’s our responsibility. We don’t plan to bolt.

— Mary Kate Leming, Editor

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