Approximately 20 protesters, including leaders of the La Plata County Republican Central Committee, convened outside The Durango Herald office Tuesday morning holding signs asking passersby to “boycott biased Herald.”
Party chairwoman Shelli Shaw, past chairman Dave Peters and secretary Hope Scheppelman were all present. Signs held by attendees called out staff of The Herald by name.
“Put the information out there and let people decide for themselves,” Shaw said. “It doesn't need to be censored or decided by The Durango Herald or any other media outlet. It needs to be presented and let people have the ability to think for themselves.”
Attendees called past reporting “biased” and said that letters to the editor submitted by conservative voices are not always published.
Opinion Editor Ann Marie Swan was not available for comment before deadline, but a recent editorial calling for letter submissions said that some letters “won’t see the light of day in our pages because they’re inappropriate or don’t meet basic criteria,” and highlighted that “the most common reason being letter writers’ opinions must be based in fact.”
The GOP executive committee also delivered a letter to The Herald stating that its members would only communicate with the newspaper “via digital means.” The letter also said The Herald’s journalists were no longer welcome at the party’s events, including the upcoming Lincoln Day Dinner.
A recent news story on an event hosted by the party with Moms For Liberty representative Darcy Schoening was the immediate impetus for the protest. Attendees said the number of protesters and attendees documented in the article were inaccurate.
Shaw also called out an editorial error made in the photo captions, which has now been corrected, in which a numeral was left off the title of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4031.
Most protesters, including Peters, declined to comment on-record regarding their reasons for being at the protest. Peters explained that the party was investigating a potential lawsuit against the paper.
Several attendees’ signs implied that The Herald has infringed upon the rights enshrined in the First Amendment — the U.S. Constitution forbids the government from limiting free speech, but makes no mention of private businesses or media doing so.
“If there's any kind of political agenda that's preventing us from voicing ourselves, it goes against the First Amendment,” said Amor Bonner, who had not planned to attend the protest but was given a sign as she passed by. “We as American people, we've been given the liberty from the beginning to be ourselves and to be a free nation, and to share what we believe.”
For most protesters, such as Diane Pauls, the mission of the event was to highlight that conservative voices feel their opinions are not being treated fairly.
“Awareness and equal treatment” was the goal, Pauls said.