Letter to the Editor – NAACP Resolution & Ashley Woodson Challenged

Written by John Face

January 16, 2023

Below you will see a letter written asking for publication. City Watch does on occasion allow unsigned letters of opinion and this will be one of those. The author wishes to remain unknown due to the sensitivity of this entire situation. City Watch knows the author and has vetted their responses as best we can. Yesterday City Watch published a story that referenced and included the entire document below, CLICK HERE TO SEE THAT ARTICLE.

To the Editor

Resolution of condemnation for City Watch Albion

In reviewing the document, and the included referenced writings of John Face presented by Dr Ashley Woodson, and the NAACP, I must voice my opposition to the resolution on the grounds that Dr Woodson’s attributions and assertions are incorrect.  Much of the complaints are centered on three events within over the past year: the altercation between Hazel Lias and Former President (Albion College) Mat Johnson at a Basketball game, the Redistricting of the city in advance of the 2022 election and the subsequent loss of Shane Williamson as 6th precinct Councilman, and the candidacy of Keena Williams for mayor.

Much of City Watch Albion’s reporting during this past 18 months has centered on the impact that Albion College President Mat Johnson had on our community.  The presented document (NAACP) is biased and makes no substantiated argument that the actions of John Face are outside a journalistic code of ethics.  He has retracted statements when new information was available, and though Dr Woodson claims bias against Black women as a trend, in fact many of the cited articles presented target President Johnson, and his behavior, rather than the Black women mentioned in the article. I will address each point made below.

(In parenthesis and bold lettering are the comments of the author in relation to the resolution.)

“We are the Albion Chapter of the NAACP. Our membership in this pioneering organization compels us to speak out against the kinds of lies and distortions that undermine the Black condition, and that undermine the continued pursuit of democracy. As an organization and as individual members, we hold symbolic, earned, elected and appointed leadership positions throughout Albion. We have directly observed City Watch News create suspicion, estrangement and tell outright lies about Albion residents. We are deeply invested in the future of our city and cannot be silent as our neighbors are degraded and misrepresented.

This includes:

● On November 2 and November 4 of this year, unsubstantiated attacks against Black

woman mayoral candidate Keena Williams, including reference to information that could

only be obtained unethically.

(The two pieces are in reference to the connection between a mayoral candidate, who is financially supporting her candidacy, and her connection to disgraced former President Mat Johnson.  The two articles linked to this point refer to campaign finance records.  These records are, in fact, readily available through FOIA, therefore, not obtained unethically. Tax records are also open records and available to the public.)

● On December 15 of last year, a lie about violence against a Black woman that resulted in

death threats against Albion residents and threats of violence against Albion College.

While one specific claim was retracted, City Watch News persisted in the reckless

disregard for the truth and accuracy when reporting on other people, including other

Black women, who were involved (screenshot below).

(This issue regarding whether or not Hazel was pushed, was a huge issue.  Witnesses around her during the incident made claims of her being pushed by Johnson at the time of the article’s writing. It was corrected in subsequent articles as new information came forward. The linked article claims errors in the college’s document explaining the incident. Face’s writing does not identify anyone other than former President Mat Johnson. The Screenshot to a Facebook post has been retracted and no longer on Facebook, but it has been replaced with updated article.)

● City Watch News has published baseless and unreasonable claims about Dr. Ashley Woodson. The behavior borders on harassment: the paper has referenced her name at least six times in one year (1,2,3,4,5,6), but has never requested an interview or fact-checked claims.

None but one of the referenced articles make any negative comment or claim about Ashely Woodson!

Here are the quotes from the referenced articles making, “baseless and unreasonable claims about Dr. Ashley Woodson.”

  1. “I received a text message from Johnson. He at first offered to meet and have Dr. Ashley Woodson be there also. We agreed to meet one on one in the hotel lobby” (Nothing inflammatory about this sentence, no claims made.)
  2. (Different article, copied text above)
  3. (Again, a different article, copied text above)
  4. “Insiders state that Brown and Ashley Woodson, an Albion college employee have made inquiries as to what are qualifications for the manager position. It is unknown if Woodson is also interested in the manager job.” (There is nothing inflammatory about this. Face is stating a belief that comes from “insiders”)
  5. (This reference is the most opinionated of all references provided and is clearly shows Face’s attitudes towards the former college president, former mayor, and Ashley Woodson.  What protects Face is his claim to be speaking to “sources”.  Is any of this supposition true?)

“City Watch has spoken with several sources over the last few months and some disturbing concerns are coming to light. There is an effort now to eliminate current Albion City Manager Haley Snyder and replace her with either Garrett Brown or Albion College employee Ashley Woodson. Williams is a friend of both, and both have served as advisors on her campaign. It is no secret that Brown has long wished to “lead” Albion. As City Manager he would be able to do that and having Williams as Mayor would give him complete control of council agenda. Why would the college care about Williams getting elected? Well, she along with other members of council have been vocal about their blind support of Mat Johnson, the former President. A College cozy council will give little oversight of the college actions.”

  • (This reference is again connected to the College’s response to the Hazel Lias incident, describing the work Keena Williams and Ashley Woodson did after the incident. It in no way disparages either woman.)   “In the days after this event Keena Williams, then an employee at the college and a member of Johnsons cabinet and Ashley Woodson, another member of his cabinet would arrive at Hazel Lias’ front door to comfort her and offer her support if she needed it. During the visit they were asked about the laptop computer that they brought, and the reply was that they would be willing to help her write a response to the situation. Lias refused the offer and would hold a tell all press conference in the days following that told an entirely different story than what Johnson was sharing.”

● On multiple occasions, City Watch News published targeted, rambling, conspiracy theory laden attacks on other women in leadership, including Councilwoman Lenn Reid, Councilwoman Marcola Lawler, and former Councilwoman Linda Lanoue.

(This claim is based on the relationship between Former president Mat Johnson and members of Albion’s City Council members.  It is true that the college made promises to council members that benefitted individual council members through offering jobs and project financial support (Holland Park, Washington Gardner and low-income housing projects). And it is true that during the redistricting process, numerous maps were created by city staff, one of which redistricted Linda laNoue out of her precinct, and it is also true that the agenda change concerning a map drawn outside of city purview was a last-minute change, avoiding community input or backlash, and it DID redistrict Shane Willaimson out of Precinct 6.  Multiple maps were presented, many would have not changed the face of council, but the one selected just happened to cut Shane from Council? It has never been done before in Albion, and smacks of gerrymandering to rid the council of an opposition voice. All are facts, Mr. Face is just connecting the dots. His basic claim may not be true, but he is asking the reader to consider all the coincidences as connected.)

“Some have insinuated that if the NAACP publicly names this as a form of journalistic terrorism,

we give City Watch News undue attention. We choose to join the conversation now because we are appalled by the influence of City Watch News: it has been cited in City Council meetings and by City Council members, at Albion College faculty meetings and in casual conversations at the Bohm Theatre. Some share these lies (Please identify the lies, nothing presented are classified as lies, which implies intent.) because they want to discredit individuals who hold different opinions than they do, so they derive personal benefit from a culture that bullies and silences advocates for change. Even more concerning are the ways that City Watch News exploits the most vulnerable in our community, particularly those with limited literacy and limited access to alternative sources of information.

These campaigns of cowardice and deceit make it difficult to recruit workers and families to Albion. It makes a mockery of our city’s historic aspirations toward integrity, excellence and cooperation. It tarnishes our city’s reputation and terrorizes potential civic leaders. We believe this is by intention. It is harmful, it is wrong. It is was The Crisis sought to fix, and it is our moral obligation to take a stance against it.

(Again, this harsh rhetoric is not based on facts. It is not a campaign of cowardice and deceit, there is nothing presented that disputes facts.  What it appears to be is an effort to silence the press that is of a different opinion than a member of the NAACP.)

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