Bad Journalism + Biased Editor = The Gray News

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bye Ray

Bye Ray, you're done with the paper now. Good, I'm glad, maybe you will also receive some peace if you get involved in new things. Newspapering by trade is pretty negative. Bye Nathan. Enjoy your new house. Your paper The Gray News is bad, it might get better, but frankly if Ray stays away then there's more hope of that. And if Nathan stays away too. And Biasbuster can always hope for a newspaper that doesn't deliberately hurt people and bring down a whole town, can't s/he?

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Best. Editorial. Ever.

Paul Proudian's hate blog had a little ditty back on New Year's Eve 2005/2006 regarding an acid editorial Ray Clark did against the council. One of many acid editorials Ray has punishes his readers with, ending last week with his worst ever. That was IT for Gray citizen Cal Cutter, who finally wrote tot eh paper listing his own concerns. Biasbuster has a long memory, and is enjoying with glee now that the tables are turned. Original Proudian ditty here. Note the date, Happy 2007! What a difference a year makes!

The people will get the last word... a time to speak out
Calvin Cutter

This essay is about something particularly insidious. Your unleashed columnist Ray Clark has written tirades in your last two issues and I must object to his tone and content. I was very pleased when I learned that The Windham Independent acquired ownership of The Gray News for I believed that a new editor and publisher would redirect the goals and style of The Gray News to model after The Windham Independent. But now I wonder.

The first time I met Ray Clark was about 9 years ago when I, and the late Pat Mundy, paid him a visit at the old Pennell Lab building owned by SAD 15. Pat was a former editor and publisher of The Gray News and she and I wanted to know why Clark's reports avoided certain elements of a then current issue relating to SAD 15. We did not know at that time that The Gray News was getting free rent from SAD 15, a circumstance that changed rapidly after it was brought to the attention of the school board of directors. During the meeting it became apparent that Clark didn't like to be questioned; his expression and tone turned to rage and he abruptly ended the meeting. Outside as I was headed to my vehicle Clark approached me and warned me to watch out because he gets the last word. Since that episode I have considered Ray Clark a man dangerous to the well being of the Gray community.

During Clark's 10 year tenure as editor of The Gray News the reporting became laden with biased and unfounded stories. He routinely reported on council and planning board meetings which he had not attended using hearsay and quoting undisclosed sources of information. Clark's reports included emotionally charged words and phrases, name calling, unnecessary adjectives to sway readers thoughts, conjecture and even his direct personal opinions ..all compromising a professional code of journalism ethics. Clark even reported on events in which he had vested interests a journalistic His reports would often misstate and distort the facts and he was not immune to misquoting town officials to produce a story diametrically opposite the truth. Usually he failed to get all the sides of an issue.

Clark's editorials ranged from homey tales, to whiny complaints and on to furious rants; often demonstrating ignorance of his subject and seldom provoking a thought. Demeaning his competition, The Monument, and its editor, Elizabeth Prata, was perhaps his lowest point. In the letters to the editor section Clark made it common practice to add his own remarks at the end of letters he didn't like and often the remarks were snide and demeaning to the writer. Clark got the last word ... or so he thought.

During Clark's tenure real news became scarce, advertising plummeted, the paper became a mere bulletin board, and font size became larger in order to cover the white space--but not all of it. The best testimonial to Clark's malpractice is that it spawned a new newspaper, The Monument. In that way, and only in that way, he helped this town move forward, albeit unintentionally.

So now. on 11 January, Clark whined that HE wasn't properly notified of a public hearing insinuating that therefore the hearing must be noncompliant with the sunshine laws. He didn't tell us that the sunshine laws do not require that public hearings be noticed in Clark's paper. Then, on 19 January, he branded the Gray Town Council "liars" because the Gray Town Council resolved that the Gray village area is a "slum and blighted area". He didn't tell us that The Gray Village Master Plan Committee asked the town council to adopt that specific resolution in order for the committee to proceed with its application for a $1 million federal grant from a fund which the government sets aside for "slum and blighted area". I called the Chair of the Master Plan Committee, she confirmed that Ray didn't call her. He didn't tell us that the Gray Village Master Plan Committee is moving ahead with its plans to improve the Gray village area by applying for federal grants to build new and wider sidewalks and pedestrian crosswalks, and to add state of the art street lighting and tasteful landscaping. That is classic Clark conniving. We finally have a council that is moving Gray ahead, and Clark is trying to screw it up.

Editor, the people have a choice to read your newspaper or not, and to advertise in your paper or not. The choices the people make in this regard will ultimately determine the success or failure of your newspaper and in that way the people, not Ray Clark, will get the last word.
At the beginning I wrote that I believed that a new editor and publisher would redirect the goals and style of The Gray News to model after The Windham Independent, a fine publication--but now I wonder.

I wonder if you will allow Clark to extend his bully pulpit to your newest paper, The Gray-New Gloucester Independent News? I wonder if you will allow Clark to continue in his obsession to get the last word?

I assure you Ms. Editor, the people will get the last word and that will be no wonder.
Cal Cutter

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Monday, January 22, 2007

It's over!

It’s over! The Gray News is no more. I think from my 126 posts over the past 8 months you can surmise how I feel about the Gray News. The current Gray News, under Ray Clark, not the past Gray News under previous editors. Mr. Clark is retiring and the papers will once again be as one, like they started out. Our long village nightmare is over.

Here is Mr. Clark's January 12 "article" (heh he no more scare quotes)

Ray Clark

"The Gray Independent News and The New Gloucester Independent News will become one paper, as of next Friday's issue."

"The two papers have discussed merging for several weeks, even before they were separately taken over by Weekly Ink, publisher of the Windham Independent. The Gray News became part of the Weekly Ink family last November; The New Gloucester News joined on January 1, 2007."

"The merger is a natural, since the two Towns share a school district and several correspondents. Michael Fralich's column, Greetings from Norumbega, and Liz Chandler's news of St. Gregory's Parish appeared in both papers. Several advertisers run in both papers, too, and they will enjoy a lower per-reader rate."

"With the retirement of Gray Independent News editor Ray Clark, it is expected that Jackie Rybeck, editor of The New Gloucester Independent News, will assume the editor's chair at the combined paper."

"The new paper, which has not yet been named, will publish on Fridays. It will be mailed free to all Gray residents and dropped off at several locations in Gray and New Gloucester. The publisher has not decided whether to mail to New Gloucester residents. Home office for the new paper will continue to be at The Gray Independent News offices on Route 26..."

This week Ray Clark in his IMHO column called the councilors outright “liars.” That’s over the top, even for Ray Clark. A proper editorial would have welcomed the readers to the new paper and would have said something nice about the new editor and the publisher. Good job readers, for expecting better of your paper and hopefully now you will be getting it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The World According to Ray Clark

Former Editor Ray Clark is upset. He claims that since the council sent the Gray News notice of an upcoming meeting too late for the Gray News’s deadline, that they broke the Freedom of Access law, which states that the public has a right to reasonable notification of the peoples’ business.

Here is the citation:

Maine's Freedom of Access law says: "Public notice shall be given for all public proceedings as defined in Section 402, if these proceedings are a meeting of a body or agency consisting of 3 or more persons. This notice shall be given in ample time to allow public attendance and shall be disseminated in a manner reasonably calculated to notify the general public in the jurisdiction served by the body or agency concerned."

Here is Mr. Clark’s reaction to the Planner having sent the notice to Mr. Clark: “As editor of The Gray Independent News, I'm getting e-mails notifying me of public meetings late on Wednesdays-after the paper has gone to press.”

However, Mr. Clark is a bit myopic in this regard. He is upset that the Gray News didn’t receive the notice in time for his deadline. However, the Right to Know law does not state that the government must use the Gray News to notify the public. The Right to Know law does not state that the government must work around the Gray News’s deadlines. Nowhere does it state that the council or Planner must keep Mr. Clark and his newspaper in mind when the notices go out.

The town disseminates notices in the following manner: Posted in three prominent places in town, usually the Post Office, the Town Hall, and Gray Plaza. The town exceeds the law's minimum notification requirement by also announcing it at a public meeting, many of which are televised;, sending the notice to the cable committee for broadcast on the community bulletin board; and sending it to The Monument, The Press Herald, and the Gray News. That the council does not handle the notices exactly the way Mr. Clark feels they should is beside the point. What Mr. Clark should be concerned with is if the council is following the law. And they are.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Some things about Sharon Bondroff

Gray News writer Sharon Bondroff has a blog. You can get a sense of her writing at

There aren't many posts but there are some of her personal life and the one near the bottom where she goes on for quite a while about how she hates anonymous comments. She calls people who comment anonymously, even if they are speaking positively about something, 'dissers.' Her blog is called Crazy In Gray. No disrespect intended I'm sure.

She also writes at, there's a piece entitled "An Anonymous Rant." People who comment are people who 'rant'? No disrespect intended, I'm sure.

Sharon Bondroff was treasurer of the Democrat for Governor Chris Miller campaign a few months ago. She is also the business partner and life partner of Steve Bunker, who also ran for public office, making a bid for State Legislature (House) as a Democrat. Good to know the new "reporter" of the local free weekly is such an active Democrat.

On February 24, 2006, Sharon Bondroff wrote in The Gray News: "Andrew Upham, acting as if he'd won a landslide, flexed his power muscles and set off to remake Gray in his image. No matter that Gary Foster was council chair. Upham spoke up and often, running roughshod over other peoples ideas, plans, and proposals. He was on a tear, driving a stake into the Pennell referendum, micro-managing employee decisions, spotlighting their deficiencies, swiftly creating a culture of confrontation and intimidation, including but not limited to the public disparagement of town employees and volunteer committees." Good to know where she stands on the vice-chair of the council she is covering.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Sharon Bondroff is biased. Here's how.

On January 5, Sharon Bondroff wrote: "Marchian "Skip" Crain voting for it, Andy Upham and Alison Libby opposing it. Julie DeRoche was not present due to an attack of the flu.

The previous post discussed Sharon Bondroff's factual errors in her write up of the council meeting. Sigh...

Anyway, Ms. Bondroff decided, when writing about Mr. Crane, to use his given name, Marchian, even though he is commonly known as Skip. Her decision to do that is a subtle dig, and a demonstration of bias. Now, she could argue that that is his legal name and the one with which he signed his nomination papers. She would be right. However, she cannot use that as an argument as to why she did it. Andy's name is legally Andrew, and Julie's legal name is Julia. So why did Ms. Bondroff see fit to pick out Mr. Crane's given name but chose to use the common nicknames for everyone else? Because she is biased. Unequal application of a standard indicates a choice to highlight one over the other, so it is a perfect example of bias.

Sharon is the master of the subtle dig. Watch for it in her writing.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Sharon Bondroff? Not much of an improvement

Sharon Bondroff wrote on a council meeting for The Gray News. On the one hand it’s good that the paper has an actual person actually attending meetings on which they write about. The Vapor Approach and the Make It Up As We Go Along Approach were getting tiresome.

However, Ms Bondroff’s approach is obviously one that mirrors her fluffy creative non-fiction writing and is not based on any journalism training or other news media education. In seeking to write evocatively and prettily, like in her old personal columns she used to do for a little while, instead of just reporting, she missed the fact in front of her face. Literally.

Each councilor has a name plate in front of them. Ms Bondroff was at a meeting for at least three hours, staring at the name plates. At said meeting the idea is to listen, write, and look around. Facts abound. Including the name plate in front of each Councilor, which, though staring at it for three hours, Ms Bondroff misspelled when it came time to put the facts to paper. It’s CRANE, not CRAIN. It's LIBBEY. Not Libby. Oy.

Skip Crane has been a councilor for a year and a half. His name has been spelled properly in three papers, exists on the town website and is broadcast almost daily on local cable. She stared at it for three hours. Where has she been? Small mistakes are telling, making the observant and intelligent reader wonder, “If Ms. Bondroff got so simple a thing wrong, a fact so obvious and basic, what else did Bondroff miss?”

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Goodbye editorial: good example of bad editor

The goodbye editorial was no doubt heartfelt to Raymond P. Clark, as the ex-editor of the Gray News confirms he is leaving for good. I am positive he feels -and will continue to feel -the loss of his daily routine and the baby that is his weekly 8 page newsletter.

He spent a lot of time and energy thanking people in this piece, which usually weekly swings from ‘poisonous tirade’ to ‘aw shucks I love this town and my grandkids, not in that order.’ Thanking people in a goodbye editorial, or in any goodbye, is normal. However, the gaping omission that Mr. Clark left in this last chance editorial was a great example of why it is good that he goes.

He thanked his Board of Directors, who initially hired him. He thanked his staff and volunteers. That was nice. He thanked his wife, also very nice.

Then...strangely, he thanked the Town Managers his tenure coincided with. Managers? Why is a newspaper thanking the government? And oddly, he went on to thank the councilors, too. More government gratitude.

Last time I looked, newspapers were supposed to be watchdogs of government, not thankful to them.

And then he ended. But he forgot to thank the only ones who make it all possible. Readers. And some of those readers are actually also, advertisers. Not one thank you. Not a thanks. Not even an offhand ‘tx’. Readers got bupkis.

Thanking government for the news and not the readers for reading it is a perfect example of how an editor’s priorities get messed up when he allows his paper to become a pocket publication. He's just been too much in the pocket of the very government he’s supposed to be watching, and now he's so inordinately grateful to them he even excludes his readers. But that is fitting, because none of his other editorials were ever citizen focused, either. And that is sad.

So, yes, it is time to go. And he went. And it was good.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I am hopeful

With the Gray News's sale, Editor Ray Clark's quitting, Nathan Tsukroff's welcome distance from the reporting world, and several Directors' retirement, I am hopeful that The Gray News will make a turnaround to being the clean, upstanding paper it once was.

The Gray News was there first and is really the rightful paper of Gray. It lost that rightful place in methods of their own choosing, when they abused the populace with their lies and bias. However, there is always room for improvement and I am hopeful that the Gray News will once again report the news in unbiased, well-written, less caustic and sarcastic manner now that new people will be coming around.

That said, I think it was a huge mistake for Current Publishing to take The Monument out of Gray. And a huge mistake for the Gray News to move to New Gloucester, just because that was where the free rent was. A town should have its paper, and the paper should be front and center and visible to all, part of the important transparency that gives credibility in the news business.

I think the Gray News should move back into the Village. Establish a presence there and begin to re-connect with the community it once loved, observed, and provided important unbiased information to. And in return, the community can once again embrace its own paper that it loved so well for those many years.

How about it?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Back to the beginning

Ray Clark is leaving the Gray News. Good. The Gray News can be restored to its once glittering and currently Clark-tarnished original intent. And here is the original intent, verbatim from original editor Cliff Foster in Gray News volume 1 number 1, January 1969.

“It has been demonstrated in the past, and more recently at the Gray Community Betterment meeting, that some type of informative newsletter, publication, or whatever, is needed to keep people in the Town of Gray more fully informed as to events and meetings which affect the community.”
“Such a publication could (1) serve as a medium of relaying facts and information, and (2) provide means of publishing sentiments and ideas of anyone who so desired, through a “Letters to the Editor” section. A calendar of events could also be inserted by local organizations, in addition to a school calendar.…At any rate it is believed to be a worthwhile venture.”

The Gray News relaying facts and information. What a worthwhile venture. Won’t that be nice?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Quiz! Answer:

What’s missing from the Gray News’s list of personnel, I’d asked a few days ago. Can you guess? Someone did correctly. A REPORTER!

Isn’t that the funniest thing in the world?! A “newspaper” without a listed reporter! So that’s why there’s no news in the Gray News. No reporting. In other words, it’s either a booster paper with delusions of grandeur, or it’s a newspaper without a clue. Either way, it’s a “don’t read.”

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Quiz! What's missing!?

From the Gray News online's masthead, listing the crew:

Managing Editor: Ray Clark
Typist: Lorraine Jones
Ad Layout: Marilyn Porcaro
Office: Cindy Saunders
Proof Reader: Mary Bosse
Circulation: Lorraine Jones

What is missing from this picture?
I'll give you one guess!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Open letter to Mr Clark

I've said it before...but an editor needs to be many things to a community. Whistleblower, watchdog, cheerleader, nurse, inspirational visionary. But all Ray Clark knows how to do is grump. To wit, his latest grumpy editorial in the December 8 issue. It opens like this:

"Here's a Christmas present from the Gray Town Council to the people of Gray Dispatch: a pink slip. And here's a Christmas present from Gray Dispatch and a thousand of their friends to the Gray Town Council: a red flag."

Does that make you want to keep reading? Not me. And it's old news now and will be news again in May: you would think there never have been or ever will be any issues in town other than Dispatch. How about editorializing on issues that affect more than your friend's brother, Mr. Clark?

The Gray News grumpy old stubborn editor missed editorializing on the Fiddlehead Center for the Arts presentation to the Council and Village Master Plan Committee, plans which are astounding and wonderful. He missed editorializing on the new gallery that opened up in Gray at 12 Main Street, to which local artists sold pieces and to which many residents visited. He missed editorializing on the wonderful town Holiday Celebration that was so warm in heart with so many people participating. And so much more he could have positively editorialized on and represented our town to itself in a way besides grump-grump-grump!

Mr. Clark, do you always have to be a grinch? Even the Grinch's raisin heart grew sometime. How about yours?

Gray News Failed again

On December 8, Ray Clark published:

Council moves ahead with Dispatch referendum, slows Zoning ordinance
Ray Clark and Judy Huff
"Another meeting, another boatload of questions for the Gray Town Council.
Pam Wilkinson wanted to know what's happening with Pennell, and so did Jim Monroe. The answer? Nobody knows; it's still in the hands of a judge.
Nearly a thousand signatories to a petition wanted to know what's happening with Gray Dispatch; the answer to that is clear: it's in the hands of Cumberland County until next June, when a referendum will decide whether the transfer will happen.
Lots of people wondered what's going on with the Wellhead Protection District zoning ordinance amendment, including the Water District and David Knudsen, of the Ordinance Review Committee. The answer to this one is, for the present, not much: the Council, after discovering several errors in the document, decided to send it to the Planning Board, errors and all.
Next up for the Council: planning the budget process for next year."

There are several journalistic issues with this piece. First, it is only 148 words long. In news, brevity is prized, but not to the point where all meaning and facts are left out! More on that in a minute. Second, why does it take two people to write such a short article? It seems feeble that two people were necessary to create such a fact-less article. You want vigorous news, not lame news. Also problematic is that one of the two people was a dispatcher for 25 years. If covering a dispatch issue it would be better to choose someone who has no ties whatsoever to the issue. But Nathan is on the fire rescue department and Judy was, and so there the forever Gray News issue of being involved with the news while reporting on it pops up again.

Back to the brevity issue. There is a difference in reporting that something happened than reporting what happened. This short article only reports that a meeting occurred. Not much else. Here are specifics:

“Pam Wilkinson wanted to know what's happening with Pennell, and so did Jim Monroe. The answer? Nobody knows; it's still in the hands of a judge.”
It’s good that the authors included the names of the people asking. That way readers can assess credibility. However, never assume that readers know ‘about Pennell.’ In this case, just mentioning Pennell does a disservice to the reader, who is now alerted that there is an issue but not what it is. A couple of sentences offering background are necessary here, but not one, but two authors failed to do so.

Secondly, the following is nonsensical: “Nearly a thousand signatories to a petition wanted to know what's happening with Gray Dispatch; the answer to that is clear: it's in the hands of Cumberland County until next June, when a referendum will decide whether the transfer will happen.” What is new about this piece of news? What does it mean for the reader? There is no new information, nothing illuminating for the reader why this was raised at a council meeting. Unless... it was a way for the authors, one of whom was a dispatcher paid by the town for several decades, to get a dig in at their own agenda.

Third: “Lots of people wondered what's going on with the Wellhead Protection District zoning ordinance amendment, including the Water District and David Knudsen, of the Ordinance Review Committee. The answer to this one is, for the present, not much: the Council, after discovering several errors in the document, decided to send it to the Planning Board, errors and all.”

‘Lots of people’?? Who? How many? Failure to present facts is a failure on the part of the two authors. Next: “after discovering several errors in the document” is a bad sentence. Passive tense is always bad to use in a supposed factual news article. News is supposed to illuminate facts for the reader, not dim them. So, What errors? Who discovered them? Were they minor or major?? Can Planning Board fix them? Will Council get a chance to fix them?

This piece of non-news:

1. Does not present any facts
2. Fails to shed light on issues
3. Raises more questions than it answers
4. Does a good job of clouding issues
5. Uses an author with a direct interest in the news and who had participated in it. (former Dispatch employee and Petition disseminating) which is against the code of ethics.
4. uses two authors to complete a piece that turned out to be utter failure. Which is pretty pathetic, if you ask me. That last part was opinion. Just to be clear.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Have a grumpy Thanksgiving

This week’s Gray News editorial was written by a man who dubs himself “old and stubborn” and boy does it show. Biasbuster cannot bust the news in the paper this week because there wasn’t any. Christmas Parade alert, church news, the paper is and always will be a bulletin board.

Editor Mr. Clark’s editorials though, show the same odd mix of pessimism, disapproval, and condescension that Mr. Clark is so well known for subjecting us to.

Editors traditionally use the editorial box at this time of year to offer well-wishes, inspire, and/or lighten up from the year’s heavy issues. However, Mr. Clark uses the Thanksgiving week editorial box to belittle his readers, remind us of his pessimism, and generally leave a sour taste in our brain after reading his woefully negative message.

His first line starts us off with the usual negativity by reminding us that not only he, but all of us, constantly ‘complain,’ ‘grouse,’ and ‘gripe.’ I do not know about you but I am generally more cheerful than that. The next part informs us that we “curl up around our woes.” Mr. Clark is assuming wrongly that we all have woes, or that we focus on them, or that we share them incessantly.

Even trying to when extol the virtues of his wife, he says that she “has put up with me for 51 years, which means she has had plenty of cause to investigate the joys of the single life.” Wow, what a ringing endorsement. Wouldn’t it be nice to read something warm! Like, like, um, how about this! “I love my wife so very much and I am glad we share this life together, thankful that she and I have had the time together that we have had.” I’d much rather read something like that, especially at Thanksgiving. Wouldn’t you?

Did you ever notice that when Mr. Clark does state an unvarnished compliment or positive notion, that he always takes it back right away with something negative? He cannot, will not, and does not go whole hog into optimist land. Like this: “I'm thankful I live in Gray, Maine, too, although I admit it sometimes drives me crazy.” I”d much rather read a plain old compliment, not the old bait and switch.

He does take the time to insincerely remind us that he is grateful to the councilors who donate their “time and talent” to the town.” Which is patently laughable when he worked so hard to remove one of them and used the editorial box to tell us in no uncertain terms how they were unworthy of that position, over and over again, and angrily, explicitly, and hatefully, too.

Finally, the end of Mr. Clark’s less than warm editorial, he thanks us for being us. I am not making this up. After admitting the town drives him crazy, after listlessly endorsing his long marriage and wanly compliments his wife, after two paragraphs of writing that use numerous synonyms for “complain,” and a two-faced mention to the councilors he so hated for most of the year, Mr. Clark thanks us for being us.

Aren’t you thankful the Gray News was bought out and we may not have to endure another “holiday greeting” from Mr. Raymond P. Clark? Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A lying Editor? Not good

It's confirmed that the Windham Independent has bought the Gray News, The Monument published this week. As the new owner indicated, negotiations to buy the paper began months ago.

This fact has now been confirmed by new owner Donato Corsetti, twice, once in June by The Monument Newspaper, and now again in November by the Monument Newspaper. Despite the confirmation, Editor Ray Clark chose to lie about the upcoming sale. He printed in April, "the Gray News has not been purchased, is not discussing being purchased and is not for sale," which we now know is a lie.

It would have been better to say "no comment" than to speak and print an outright lie. I feel sorry for The Gray News and its editor Ray Clark and I feel sorry for its new owner.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Won't that be nice

Oh boy! Maybe I don’t have to do this anymore! The Gray News sold out to an out of town businessman, who owns several newspapers. The Gray News is part of a chain now.

I hope that the new owner will monitor the Gray News staff (of two: Nathan and Ray) and publish articles that have some facts in them! And from which the reporter actually went to the meeting! And isn’t angry, petulant, scathing, snide, or pompous!

Won’t that be nice.

I’ve learned from watching the news industry though that you’re supposed to be optimistically skeptical. So Biasbuster will watch for a while to see if there are any positive changes before moving off to do other things.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that improvements will be made…that the staff is shaped up or shipped out…that the newspaper becomes once more not an embarrassment to the town, themselves, and the entire journalism industry.

Won’t that be nice.

I can’t wait to declare: “My Work Here is Done.”

Monday, November 06, 2006

Emergency! Bad DIspatching article

Gray dispatch closed in sudden move
Ray Clark

“The Gray Town Council voted on October 17 to move fire-rescue dispatch operations from Gray to Cumberland County as of January 1, 2007, citing the resignation of two Gray dispatchers.”

Partly true. They also cited improved service, regionalization, and cost savings. The report should be as complete as possible. Selecting which facts to present skews the article.

“One had resigned several weeks ago, before the decision to move dispatch was made, and one resigned when he found a new position.”

Partly true. They also resigned suddenly, exposing the Town with inadequate emergency calling coverage. Hiding facts makes the report biased.

“The Town closed the Gray dispatch office on Friday, October 27, without warning or notice. At least one employee was given just two weeks severance pay and two weeks vacation pay, despite being terminated nine weeks early.”

The notice was short because emergency services were compromised due to the actions of dispatchers who quit. And how many weeks severance pay do non-dispatching mortals usually get?

“The Council and Town Manager felt they had no choice but to make the move to Cumberland County immediately as a result of the resignations, although substitute dispatchers were available.”

Notice that Clark does not ask the council directly. How does he know how they “felt”? Since does not cite a source for the statement, like quotes from a meeting, or an interview, it is more mind-reading than reporting.

Who are these substitute dispatchers? Do they work for Gray? How many are there? Did Mr. Clark call them? Did he ask the manager why they weren’t used? No to all. Underreporting is biased reporting. It’s also lazy.

“One of the dispatchers will remain on the job for some unspecified period, …”

“For some unspecified period”? Any editor worth his salt would never let a vague statement like that go to print.

“Weekend callers to 657-3931-the nonemergency phone number for Gray Fire-Rescue-found themselves talking to Cumberland County. That problem at least has been rectified by the presence of the administrative assistant. But such calls before 9, after 4 or on weekends will apparently continue to be forwarded to Cumberland County Dispatch, crowding emergency calls.”

The non-emergency number is the non-emergency number. And choosing to use “apparently” in a sentence describing the sensitive emergency call process deliberately creates a dangerous situation. Reporters try to be a specific as possible in the journalistic effort of informing the reader, not less. By choosing to be unspecific, Mr. Clark inflames, not informs.

Finally, deliberately and unnecessarily creating the panicky specter of ‘crowding emergency calls’ is ugly personal politics in the extreme. It is highly irresponsible. This article is so far from journalism it makes me wonder if Mr. Clark is sane.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Editors should not berate

In last week's edition of The Gray News, Hon., Cliff Foster sent in a letter referring to citizen referendums. Often in the past, when a letter writer stated something with which Editor Ray Clark did not agree, he would attach a rejoinder appended to the conclusion of the writer's letter.

Editors in most newspapers of stature do not condone this practice. Good editors refrain from involvement and allow the citizens to have their say. If there is a severe misunderstanding of a point an editor had made, a private phone call is a more respectful way to learn more about the letter writer's thoughts and share his own.

However, to make matters worse, if the letter writer states an opinion contrary to one that Clark holds, Clark's appended comment will be snide, condescending, derisive, or just plain mean. Sometimes all at once.

That practice is never done by professional editors. It is journalistic abuse of the highest order to use the newspaper to berate contributors.

Clark has not done that for a while, but last week he showed that he still has a temper and an immature streak that prevents him from professional restraint. He chose to abuse his position by stating the following after Foster's letter:

"I did not state that 'citizen referendums are not necessary'; Mr. Foster must have dreamed that notion."

Editor Clark should immediately do three things:

1. Apologize to Mr. Foster, who took time to contribute his thoughts to Clark's paper
2. Stop deriding letter writers in print
3. Learn how not to take things personally. Having a reflexive negative emotional response to letters is a recipe for a heart attack, demonstrates lack of professionalism, and injures the reputation of a fine industry: newspaper editing.

Editors should be respectful of their readers, thankful that citizens read the paper and contribute their thoughts (and ads), and grateful that they have an opportunity to serve their citizens.

Mr Clark is none of those things and that is why he is a disrespectful, immature, unprofessional editor.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Brevity is disrespectful in some cases

In the October 20 issue of the Gray News, Ray Clark wrote:

"Dispatch goes to Cumberland"
"The Gray Town Council voted at its Tuesday meeting to transfer Gray Fire-Rescue's dispatch operation to Cumberland County. The move is intended to save the Town money.
Other entities offering dispatch services included the Maine State Police and a combination of the dispatch offices of Raymond and Gray. Only Cumberland County and the State Police submitted actual bids. Despite Councilor Andy Upham's policy against doing business with fewer than three bids, the Council's vote was unanimous."

A brief entry such as this does more to misinform than inform because it leaves the reader with many questions.

Clark chose to write 'intended to save the town money' but chose not to write how much it will save, why Council wanted to go in this direction, or what the costs used to be before the vote.

He chose to raise the issue of the three bids but chose not to ask the council about it, or inform the readers as to the reasons why two bids instead of three.

He chose to cloud the issue by stating two entities submitted "actual" bids, leaving the reader to wonder if there were other bids, or to wonder what he meant by 'actual.'

He chose to say the council voted, but chose not to disclose that it was unanimous. He chose not to print any of the council comments during discussion, he chose not to print any audience comments, he chose not to print any comments uttered from Gray Dispatch. He chose not to print any parameters of the bids, or what will happen next now that the vote has come down.

He chose to lie, and claim that it was 'Andy Upham's policy' and not that the three-bid policy had been in place in the Manager's Administrative Code long before Andy Upham came to town.

In short, Clark printed a brief article in which he chose to dispense the information he wanted and not the information the readers needed.

Ray Clark is a bad reporter.

Monday, October 16, 2006

We'll tell you how to vote

In this week's Gray News, Editor Ray Clark begins his editorial by stating: "This newspaper never tells anybody how to vote, and we're not about to start now."

This is not true.

Biasbuster has several issues with the untruthfulness of Clark's editorial. As we have learned in prior posts, the point of an editorial is to offer opinion on issues of the day that are concurrent with or subsequent to the newspaper's having presented the facts about the issue in a news report.

The problem is, the Gray News has not presented one fact or one article about TABOR. But Clark is telling you, in his way, that TABOR sucks. Without having offered readers a chance to learn the facts about the issue, Clark's negative editorial toward TABOR means he is doing exactly what he says he's not: telling you how to vote.

The second issue I have with his claim that he is really, really not telling you how to vote is that the paper is politically active and therefore biased. For example, the editor was president of the Gray Public Library Association, and used his newspaper to cloud the facts around the Library expansion and hide the fact that his group was planning to present a hugely costly bond. They spent newspaper ink and newspaper space telling you what to think about the GPLA while politically participating in the GPLA and trying to influence the council process and decision about it.

Also, the newspaper fomented and participated in the recent recall attempt of Andy Upham. Their newspaper Board members, and their minutes taker Nathan Tsukroff, circulated political petitions to get rid of the vice-chair. All the while the editor was claiming in his editorial that he wasn't telling you how to vote.

He is not being truthful with himself, with the readers, or with his profession.

Of course he is telling you how to vote. I just wish he'd be honest about it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

No news is not news

A newspaper should have news in it, one would think. News covering the important meetings, news that analyzes, news that informs. Community stories about friends and neighbors, and calendar of upcoming events.

As I stated earlier in another post, which listed from Wikipedia the appropriate elements a newspaper should have in it, The Gray News (as any newspaper) should have news, community notes, entertainment, sports, and opinion. The September 29 issue of the Gray News does not have any news in it. It does not have any coverage of meetings, issues, events, or analysis.

It has some community postings of upcoming events, such as news from the Wildlife Park, a boy getting Eagle Scout, and church bulletins. There's a release from the HS Guidance office, and a correction to messing up a name last week and an apology for a missing column. And a fluff editorial musing about the seasons. That's just about it.

Not that what's in there isn't important, but a real newspaper should have an appropriate mix, and that mix should of course include news, the foundation of its existence. With no news in the paper, if a newspaper falls on the doorstoop, does anyone hear it?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Is it Halloween already?

If we are to follow Ray Clark's pattern and penchant for personal diatribes and stream of unconsciousness editorials, I am betting he will follow up the cutting edge editorial in the non-Gray News of September 29, entitled "Hey, who stole September?" with: "Is it Halloween already?" on October 27, and the November 24th issue with an editorial entitled "Guess what? Christmas is almost here!"

I can hardly wait.

Editorials should illuminate an aspect of civic life or shed light on municipal issues. With Ray Clark, we don't get that, but we do get a peek at his negative thoughts, his vacuous ideas, and his bitter heart.

As the wise Chinese proverb says, "Keep your broken arm inside your sleeve."

Something to think about...

Friday, September 29, 2006

Tinman is wronnnnnng! LOL!

TinMan Debbie Shaw mancini wrote:

BiasBusterPants aka Elizabeth Salveti Prata has left the building

Really? My name is Biasbuster and I am here. By the way, Tinman is incorrect, inaccurate, and just plain wrong, her name is Elizabeth Prata. The two are not the same.

Enjoy your spewing, TinMan, I know how much you like it.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The point is, the Gray News is a horrible newspaper

I hope that after reading this blog for a while you have come to see the facts that support Biasbuster's contention that the Gray News of Gray, Maine is a horrible newspaper. It's a biased, negative, unprofessional, political/personal agenda-filled hateful, hurtful publication that has no business being published for one more second. The Directors, Editor Ray Clark, and reporter Nathan Tsukroff use it to hurt people, lie, run from the truth, and destruct the town. It is inconsequential and it is dying. Let it go. You have other, better reading options that are filled with promise, not poison.

I'm going on vacation for a while. I'll not be posting, unless circumstances warrant!

Peace N Harmony,

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Constant negativity hurts the town

There are different opinions about the role of editor and how he or she should use the editorial box. One opinion is that editors should not opine about themselves, their lives, their private endeavors, anything not of general interest to the readership. They should stick with municipal issues.

The other opinion is that when the editor writes in limited quantities about himself it helps the readership get to know the person upon whom they may be considering laying their trust and accepting his or her point of view. However, there is a limit to laying one's self bare. I do not agree that the editorial box should be used as public therapy. And this is something Ray Clark does all too much.

On September 22, he wrote," I sat in my beach chair on the rocks at Reid State Park, with my book ... I watched the waves breaking and the sailboats scudding and the gulls soaring. ... And I thought about how lucky we are, you and I, to live in the Town we do and the state we do and the country we do. ... In the time it took me to drive home from Reid State Park, I slid easily back into complaining, grousing and irritation mode. I was back home."

Moreover, when Ray Clark writes about himself and his emotions, even if he starts out positive, he always ends up negative. A constant diet of negativity wears on the reader. And you can see how wearing it is on Ray Clark himself. By his own admission, though the day was gorgeous and he was away and relaxing at a spectacular State Park, he still maintained his status quo of 'irritability', 'complaints', and 'grousing. ' Such a shame.

An editor who is always complaining tends to look at municipal issues in the same way, without giving new initiatives a fighting chance before shooting them down under a cloud of negativity. An editor who is always irritable cannot offer a supportive word for a community who may need to hear one after a difficult spring filled with hate and recalls. An editor who is always grousing is a turnoff to people who may just want to read some thoughts without the emotional heartache, and thus quits reading the paper entirely.

The editorial box is a precious space in the paper. Used wisely it can call for accountability, inspire, challenge, uplift. Used as therapy, it just becomes sad.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Getting it wrong hurts the town

On September 2, Ray Clark wrote, "Councilor Andrew Upham said that he expected the Council to provide funding, eventually, to the Committee that could amount to $200,000."

This is mostly incorrect. The full explanation is that the Plan's proponents will seek funds through the Statewide block grant program. Some of those grants require matching funds, and if so, the town may consider discussing a match. However, the funds in the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) program are available and segregated for specific uses within the TIF area. The TIF Area is the Downtown, the specific uses are for infrastructure. The Village Plan is calling for infrastructure improvements, like sidewalks. So the match may be with funds that already exist.

In addition, the council can not "provide funding" to the tune of $200,000 without voting on it and/or presenting it to the people to vote on it, like at town meeting or at the polls. Certainly not without offering an opportunity for the people to weigh in on it. Mr. Clark well knows that.

When Ray Clark gets it wrong, or fails to report the whole story, it hurts the town. Mis-reporting on the charter amendment proposal and the Village Plan means that readers make up their minds on the issue without having had benefit of all the facts. This hurts the town.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The winds of time have taken their toll on Gray News

Let's stroll down memory lane. The Monument started in March 2000. Until that moment, the Gray News enjoyed a monopoly in Gray, an dreamy economic position.

What did the Gray News look like then? On March 3, 2000, which Biasbuster feels is representative of the paper 6 years ago, The Gray News was 16 pages. They were frequently 16 pages, then. About 50-55% of their pages were ads. That week's paper had two full-page ads (Pine Tree Networks and Gray Thriftway), a half page ad (Wilson Funeral Home) and three quarter page ads. Plus all the rest of the variously sized ads. A lot.

Their ad monopoly extended the Town of Gray. According to invoices at the time, the Gray News reaped on average $250 per week, or about $1,000. This meant that the townspeople were actually paying about $12,000 per year to support the paper, which is a private business.

Gray News enjoyed free rent in a public building. Not having to pay rent and having a monopoly on town ads and a monopoly in local sales too, meant they were sitting pretty financially. Editor Ray Clark earned over $300 per week.

As for editorial content, which was as biased as ever, at least there was more of it. In said particular paper, there were two council articles on the front page (no bylines, though). There were 7 letters to the editor, and some of these were real letters, discussing issues.

Inside the paper there were more articles; on the charter revision, on the Wildlife Park volunteer dinner (with a photo!) another council story, a few commentaries, and the first "Wee Bit O'Blarney" column by Gray Democrat Donnie Carroll.

The Gray News used to print 4,400 copies and circulate to many outlets in Gray.

Cut to now.

The paper is regularly 12 pages with lots of white space and sometimes even 8 pages. Half the size it used to be. Gone are the lucrative full page ads. Gone is the gravy train from the town, the $230, $250, $294 a week in municipal ads. That is quite a blow. Gone is the $1,521 payment to do the town report, something that is bid out now, like a real town should do.

The ads represent about 15% of the paper. Many of the ads you see are not real ads but phonies, like releases, made up to look like ads. This is to make it look like the Gray News is healthier than it is. Their revenue is way, way waaaay down.

In an effort to save money, Ray Clark gave up his salary, which by then had dwindled to $175 a week anyway.

Now they print only a hundred above their mailing count, about 500 fewer than in 2000. They rotate circulating to the outlets because there are precious few leftover newspapers above the ones that are mailed. So it's Puffin Stop one week and then the next week those 10 copies go to Gray Hardware. It's called rationing. Gone is the news. Gone are the letters, many weeks that page is just blank of content. Gone is the circulation. Frankly, gone is the readership.

Just to compare 2000 to 2006.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

News judgment: photos

Why does the Gray News put photos of animals that have nothing to do with stories in the paper? Because they have poor photojournalism judgment. And they don't go out to get the news. Instead, they use a long lens to snap whatever wildlife hops in front of the camera whilst sitting on a lawn chair.

At Fullerton, the Communication Department cites this definition of news: "In 1946, the Hutchins Commission came out with a definition of news that still applies today: A truthful, comprehensive, and intelligent account of the day's events in a context which gives them meaning."

Photos are supposed to give meaning to the news as presented. Wikipedia says that a good journalistic photo is supposed to have three criteria:

Timeliness - the images have meaning in the context of a published chronological record of events.
Objectivity - the situation implied by the images is a fair and accurate representation of the events they depict.
Narrative - the images combine with other news elements, to inform and give insight to the viewer or reader.

This week's large-format photo depiction of a butterfly does not illustrate a particular news event nor was it combined with other news elements elsewhere in the paper. Same is true of the chipmunk the week before. Even more perplexing, the Gray News doesn't have the money to pay for color photos, and yet they pick a photo of a colorful butterfly to put on the cover. If they are going to choose non-news photos in black and white, at least they should choose a photo that doesn't lose all of its remaining interest, visual beauty, when depicted in gray tones.

The photos' placement on the front page uses valuable news space for something that is not news, but rather, a nature essay. If the Gray News wants to be a duplicate of the Friends of the Wildlife Park newsletter, it should change its name. Otherwise, the Gray News self-described photojournalist Nathan Tsukroff should go out and take some pictures of news.

To compare, here are some examples of photojournalistic choices other local papers presented this week. In Biasbuster's opinion, these photos pass the three-criteria test of Timeliness, Objectivity, and Narrative.

The Forecaster: photo by Sandra Hrasdzira, goes with education story by Peter Smith "Portland West scoops out the sugar for back-to-schoolers"

Lakes Region Weekly, Photo By Rich Obrey, goes with story by TC Nguyen, "One year later: 93 percent of school population deem School Resource Officer a success"

In contrast, here is what the Gray News chose to present as news:

"This butterfly will fly off soon." (Not the actual Gray News photo but a similar one from Websters Dictionary online)

"Look, this chipmunk is cute!"(Not the actual Gray News photo but from University of Chicago Library)

Nature? Definitely. News? No. The Gray News should change its name to the Gray Nature Newsletter.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Quiz: Who said it?

While my intentions were noble-to bring problems to the attention of others-the method I used was very hurtful. I took away some of the innocence in our town, and stripped away that feeling of community.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Is the Gray News hiding the news? Or just broke?

On January 5, 2006, Nathan Tsukroff of The Gray News wrote this of The Monument Newspaper:

Newspaper of record . . . hides the record
The self-proclaimed Newspaper of Record has failed miserably in its self-proclaimed task. Go to and you will find this week's prattle. But go to the archives and you won't find last week's prattle. In fact, the most recent prattle is from April, 2005. Go to and you will find EVERYTHING. What is Prattle trying to hide? Why can't we read the prattle from June, July, August and September? It's obvious that the Newspaper of Record is a broken record."

What goes around comes around. The paper on which Tsukroff bases his pride (Biasbuster will not stoop to changing his name to "Jerkoff" or say "go to the archives and you'll find last week's Snooze") has increasingly failed to upload their paper in a timely way. Weeks often go by without refreshing the online version. Also, there are missing editions that were never uploaded, from June, July, August. Why can't we read issues from June, July, and August? What are they trying to hide? And, links don't work, photos have the red X and some links take you to the wrong article.

It is understandable if the Gray News folks are trying to save some money and doing the uploading themselves. Internet hosting company MaineStreet Communications charges a lot to do that work. So, if The Gray News needs to save money, fine. But now you see that it's not so easy.

Now that his own newspaper finds that the task of correctly uploading even a flimsy newspaper takes time and skill, and is not as easy as it looks, maybe Mr. Tsukroff will issue and apology for his harsh words earlier. What are the odds?