Some of you vented, others seemed to take therapy in it, many wrote or called and used the opportunity to express the value of faith, and several made suggestions.
Therefore, this column is dedicated to your voice. Given that I have not had the opportunity to personally respond and ask permission, the full names of the senders or callers are withheld.
The background, for those unfamiliar with the story, is that our community was shocked by the inclusion of several well-known and well-liked prominent people on a list of arrests for sexual solicitation, exposure or other elements of public nuisance after a police sex-sting operation in a public park near a school playground.
Although it should be noted that no charges were filed against any of the men for crimes against children, Farmington police and the newspaper both made clear that the chief concern is sexual exploitation of any kind in public places and especially near children who could be exposed or victimized.
Thursday's column explained why the newspaper chose to name names and to support the noteworthy effort by our police. It also challenged the community to step up regarding the related issue of child well-being because of the nearby playground and the role of a public park.
Here's a small sample of what readers said:
"Regarding the latest front-page story on illicit gay sex. One question: Will the Farmington police now be conducting stings in bars and parks to bust heterosexual people for the same crimes'? I cannot condone the public nudity or assault, but apparently asking for consensual sex is now illegal."
Joe in Aztec
"I appreciate your honesty and your courage. ... Their hands have been patted long enough ... and it's time we do something. It is time we come forward and give our children some protection. I'll be praying for you."
"I loved your commentary ... and I thank you for what you have done. Perhaps this will help clean up some of the evil activities in our community. I agree with you: Get a room!"
"I think you are doing a worthy thing. I was in that park two weeks ago with my grandkids and a policeman told us to stay out of that park, and I'm glad you're revealing names ... We're praying for you and for the police department."
"I'm a gentleman that walks in the park. Not all of us have the same resources you have and know what's going on ... it's not fair to hurt people in the park. I don't think that poor journalism should ruin somebody's life. You shouldn't hurt people in the park just for your own journalism gratification. And I have a suggestion for you. I would fire that reporter for shoddy journalism ...
"I don't think poor journalism should ruin somebody's life just because smalltown Farmington has a big story. It's probably the biggest story you'll have all year."
"I wanted to compliment you on a great op-ed piece and hitting the nail on the head: Get a room. I love it. That was classic: Get a room."
"Thank God somebody is beginning to bring these things to light in Farmington and the surrounding areas ... If we name more names, maybe it will help stop it ... I'm gonna stand behind you 100 percent!"
Doug in Farmington
"I just wanted to say thank you for not stepping down or shutting your eyes to the horrible things that took place at the park and to thank you for stating The Daily Times will stand up and out to make a point to try to stop sick people from doing this again."
Kim in Bloomfield
"Well done on your article. Just curious as to why you only chose the three businessmen? I am glad you did, but what about the others?"
(Editor's note: All of the names, their ages and hometowns were listed in the print edition. However, we only had occupation information available on three of them at the time the story was reported.)
"I just wanted to thank you for the coverage in the paper today; so often people try and cover things up or say that it's not other's business. My family and I want to thank you for NOT covering things up and for getting the community the information."
"It's time to step up and say enough.'"
"Thank you for your words. I was shocked to find out that this was occurring in our public parks, and further shocked when my daughter came home from school and told me that her school might have to cancel one of its programs this year because her teacher was involved in this situation.
"This is a region that is full of predators, and I am tired of people using poverty and lack of education as an excuse. I am tired of the law giving a pass to this kind of crap. These folks need to be stopped. They need to be given a chance to change their ways, and the community needs the chance to protect themselves from the danger of these behaviors.
"I liked your column this morning and support you in your endeavors."
"I have on occasion had an issue with the media, but in this instance you are right on. We have to keep people from hurting our children."
"Nice job! That was a very heart-felt, to-the-point and fair article. It's a no-brainer: Get a room."
"I thought your column today was very well written and I for one appreciate the tone the articles have had as you said, Also, our staff working on the story agreed, this would not be reported as an indictment against homosexuals. That is something individuals must decide on their own when it comes to judging right from wrong, and we did not want the newspaper to be involved in judging, period, when it came to this story and that aspect of it,' which I believed showed good journalism.
"I was a little surprised to see the sentence Sources who know tell us the list of prominent names involved is much longer than those we reported Monday who got arrested, and that several of them would add more shock to the community if revealed.' I would hope that the police and the paper would report on all of those involved and not single out a few to make an example. If the intent is to stop public sex, then I would want all people involved mentioned. I obviously do not know the names of the people suggested, but do not believe they deserve protection while allowing the others to be hurt.
"I think the community can handle and should deal with a little more shock' as a full airing of the information will allow for a broader discussion on why people lead secret lives and maybe that there be efforts made to allow these men to be honest with their friends and families about who they are.
"Either way, the easy way to write the report would have been to smear all homosexuals and I applaud the paper for choosing to recognize that the issue at hand is where these people were engaging in sex and not with whom."
(Editor's note: The entire list of names of those arrested was published; none were withheld. If more arrests are made, we will report them.)
"Not that I care whether you do or do not, really, but after all, you wrote this. What exactly does close personal ties' mean? And why, if you are acquainted with these guys, even at the most casual level, did you take care to let everyone know that not only you know them, but that your staff share these mysterious close personal ties' as well?
"Is that your way of sharing with your staff the awkward misfortune of knowing these guys, so that you are not the only soul who claims they do? Is this tarring your workers with the same brush? ...
"Why drag your staff into this? I always thought it was the job of an editor to take the heat when a tough story is run, even when the staff is at fault ... but I guess that's not the case anymore."
(Editor's note: Steve, I think my columns here during the past year have proven I'm willing to take the heat, and be aware that there is no need to offend our staff with your implications and insensitivity; nor offend the community at large if it chooses to maintain ties with any of these men, which include a pastor, a longtime teacher and a business owner who have interacted with many on a professional and friendship level.)
"Thanks for the hard work you and the staff there do. You are in our prayers."
"Great column. I bet half the people who wrote in complaining about exposing names would not have even thought about complaining if it were some homeless guy you were writing about. Glad you were fair."
"I just wanted to say thank you for the insightful article you wrote pertaining to the sex sting.' I and my husband moved from our home in Farmington in January 2003 down to Las Cruces. We lived in the Farmington area for almost 30 years and raised our daughter in the community.
"We witnessed a couple of acts in the Berg Park area a few years ago that forced us to abandon our daily walks there with our then teenaged daughter. Boyd Park is not the only place in Farmington where sexual activities occur in blatant disregard to common decency. It is painful for the community and especially for the families of these men, but it may prevent a much bigger incident by bringing their names to the attention of the community. Again, thank you, and keep up the good work."
"I noted frequent references to nearby schools in recent articles about homosexual activities. Is it your position that people who prefer same-sex sexual activities are also likely to be pedophiles? Is that a scientific view or merely pandering toward what I think is a common misconception?"
"I just wanted to say that your article today was very good, and I'm proud of the way you are handling news in the paper. I totally agree with you and want you to know that I am praying for you. You've got a tough job, brother!"
Phyllis in Farmington
"Thank you for your column. It was very well written and I enjoyed it. I am a Christian, and it is exceedingly difficult for me to have forgiveness in my heart for anyone who victimizes a child in any way. My first reaction is the stiffest penalty possible under our shaky justice system and the hope that they burn in hell. But I know that isn't the attitude God wants me to have.
"I struggle every day with my judgments, as do many of us who look so unfavorably on that type of behavior. It is my hope that these men (for lack of a better term) caught in this sex sting are sufficiently shamed and have come to realize the mess they've made of their lives. The Bible tells us that God completely forgives us of our sins if we sincerely repent and accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. I have done those things, and continue to do them every day. But I need God's help to not condemn and hate these people. The Lord knows, it's very hard to do. Thank you for your time."
"I applaud your article. You said it like it is. The community needs that kind of comments."
"I just wanted to tell you that I thought your newspaper article was great. You said what needed to be said without putting judgment or embarrassment on the people who were arrested in the sex sting. I want to say, though, that I can't believe how many crimes against children are reported daily. My son and I just moved back to Shiprock from Albuquerque in April. The reason why we moved back was because of all the violence that was escalating in Albuquerque.
"It turns out that this area is just as bad, maybe even more so because it's a small community. I agree with you completely that parents don't spend enough time with their children throughout the day. I am guilty of that myself. I go to work in Farmington, and by the time I come home, I have a few hours left in the day to spend with my child before he has to go to sleep and we start the whole process over again the next day.
"But I will tell you this; I make time for my son no matter what. I ask what's going on at school, with his friends, and so forth. I just hope that parents/members of the community learn that children come first and that, like you mentioned, we all have skeletons in our closet. Like I mentioned before, it was a great article."
Troy Turner is the editor of The Daily Times. His column that was published Thursday can be found online at daily-times.com. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 450, Farmington, NM 87499; or at firstname.lastname@example.org.