PLATTEVILLE — A small-town youth newspaper known for stirring up political controversy has gone extinct.
The Panther Express of Platteville launched in 2001 but disappeared last summer. The town library eliminated its yearly $15,000 funding in March, and its adult editor pleaded no-contest in April to phone harassment charges related to late-night hang-up calls made to a library board member.
In June, Panther Express founder and editor Sheryl Author promised her publication — which had won a national creativity award from the Public Library Association and provided journalism experience to about 100 local kids over five years — would soldier on with private funding.
But according to library staff, Author managed to publish only one more issue with money from a friend, then gave up the project and moved out of town. Author did not return calls for this report.
“Sheryl is of no consequence to me and never has been,” said Dan Coulter, Platteville’s former mayor. “Contrary to what she believes, sticks and stones.”
Coulter and other board members claimed for years that Author used the paper as a personal platform to bash local leaders. Though children ages 7 to 18 wrote 70 percent of its articles, adult contributors with axes to grind wrote the editorials that set town residents buzzing on a monthly basis, Platteville leaders said.
In June, Author said thin-skinned local government officials decided to destroy the paper because they couldn’t accept local media holding them accountable for their actions.
Neither the town nor library has plans to fund another youth newspaper.