Bad Journalism + Biased Editor = The Gray News

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Opinion reporting disguised as real reporting

Town Attorney says TM
Ray Clark
Headline makes no sense. At least there’s a byline. That’s good.

“At last Tuesday's Town Council meeting, Chair Gary Foster repeatedly told the audience that Town Attorney William Dale had agreed that Moderator Donnie Carroll's decision to allow an amendment to the Library warrant article should have been ruled out of order.”

This is correct, the Chair did say that. Though I do not know how many times it needed to be said it for a reporter to decide it was said “repeatedly” Two? 13? 47?

“A reading of Dale's opinion, however, gives an entirely different view. Dale clearly says that the reduction of the amount of money (from $200,000 to $45,600) was legal, and that the change from basement repairs to roof repairs and other expenditures is a "gray area". Nevertheless, the Town Meeting decided the question, and the decision is final.”

This is where the report turns into an editorial by Mr. Clark: 'A reading of the opinion gives an entirely different view.' Who read the opinion? Whose view? Ray Clark. Mr. Clark read it and had a different opinion and he uses this paragraph to tell the reader of all about it. If the meeting participants had discussed the opinion and questioned its variance from the earlier statements, then fine, it's reporting (what others said).

Using “clearly” is not necessary. Any word ending in –ly should not be in a news report. Let the reader decide of it was clear or not. The more a reporter allows the reader to make up his own mind the better. The more the reporter tells the reader what to think, the worse.

“And although Foster said that Dale had called the amendment "a "substantive" change, in actuality Dale said no such thing. Dale told Foster that the procedure was handled in accordance with State law, and that "at this point, it's a done deal and there's simply no appeal".

Not so true. Later in the meeting Dale did say there were several cases where a municipality could appeal. First, a town could appeal at any time, if it chose, nothing was stopping a town from making that decision. Dale said also that the town could appeal if there was an “egregious” breach. Upon questioning further by Andy Upham, Dale said that ‘egregious’ was subjective and an appeal could be made on what the merits of what the town thought was egregious.

In this report, the reporter did the classically biased mistake--he chose certain facts and left out others. In failing to present all the facts and the fully fleshed out discussion, it makes a biased report, one that reflects what the reporter wanted the reader to glean, not the accurate snapshot of what really occurred. In the end, it's all just Mr. Clark's opinion.


  • keep it up! I like this.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:58 PM  

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