Janesville41.2°

Blogger keeps a watchful eye on Whitewater

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Kayla Bunge
April 14, 2008
— He goes by John Adams.

No one seems to be able to figure out who he is, and he doesn’t want anyone to.


But his words can be read every day in his blog, Free Whitewater.


The blog was launched a year ago and puts community leaders and their words and actions under a microscope.


Adams is critical of city government, the school district and the newspaper, among others. He tells visitors to his blog that, despite their “affection” for the city, if life leaves them “uneasy” or if they’re “convinced that something is distorted and wrong in the politics and culture” of the city, they’re not alone.


The mystery of Adams’ identity has troubled city officials since July.


Perhaps the one most perturbed by the blogger’s anonymous criticism is Police Chief James Coan, who led a six-month charge to find Adams and pull him out from his anonymous curtain.


According to e-mails obtained by Adams under the state’s open records law, the search—conducted on city time and with taxpayer money—involved at least two detectives, the city clerk, the information technology administrator and the public works director.


The e-mails describe the blogger as a “suspect.”


Coan said the use of city time and resources was “very minimal—just some e-mails written back and forth.” He said he and other city officials were “concerned with what (the blog) represented,” calling Adams and his blog “potentially threatening.”


Adams, who disguised his voice and used only his pen name in communications with The Janesville Gazette, said he didn’t set out cause trouble.


“I put out an opinion that may or may not be heard very often in my town,” he said. “I don’t have a goal … I just have a desire to write about life in my town.


“I just describe what it’s like to look at things from my point of view. … I don’t start out thinking, ‘I want to be a critic.’”


The effort to unmask Adams included examining his e-mails and Web site registration and running a license plate check on a man suspected of being Adams.


“I think it is someone we want to keep an eye on,” detective Tina Winger wrote in an e-mail to Coan. “Seems like an anti-government radical to me.


“I’m going to dig a little more to try and get more intelligence on this goof.”


The hunt culminated in a Jan. 4 interview with Laird Scott, a 68-year-old retiree, who Coan described as the “No. 1 suspect in the John Adams case.” Coan wrote in an e-mail a couple weeks later that he was “99.9 percent convinced” Scott was the blogger or closely linked to the blogger.


“I know that he was 100 percent wrong,” Adams wrote in his blog after reviewing the e-mails.


Coan said he just wanted to ascertain Adams’ identity so they could talk.


“Certainly if we knew who this person was we could establish a dialogue and encourage him to learn about us as a city government or a police department,” he said.


City Manager Kevin Brunner, who was involved in the e-mail exchange but “never wanted to know” about Adams, said Coan’s and other city employees’ interest in Adams’ identity was “fairly innocuous.”


“They just wanted to talk to this person and talk about some of their concerns,” he said.


Adams has invited city officials, including the police chief, to respond to his blog posts via e-mail several times, but they never responded, he said.


He said city officials have no reason to feel threatened by his commentary. The things said in newspapers and magazines, on radio and television are “much more hard-hitting than anything I’ve ever written.”


“Nobody should be intimidated by a little opinion that comes out every day,” he said. “I’m a very tiny blogger in a very tiny town.”


Adams said people are bothered by his blog because both the blog and his point of view are new to the city.


Coan said the city isn’t doing anything currently in regards to Adams or his blog, including reading it. In fact, he thinks the blog has lost its novelty.


“It seems like there’s not as much interest in the blog as there once was,” he said. “It seems to have fallen away. I don’t hear people talking about it much anymore.”


Adams’ e-mail inbox says something different.


“I get a lot of e-mail from different people, sometimes people writing under their own name or, like me, using a pen name.


“It’s very encouraging the overwhelming number of e-mails.”


GO ONLINE

Access the Free Whitewater blog at freewhitewater.com or e-mail John Adams at adams@freewhitewater.com.



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