Bad Journalism + Biased Editor = The Gray News

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Ray chooses strong negative language. It is biased to do that

May 5, 2006 Ray Clark wrote:
Upham wins by a hair

”Town Councilor Andy Upham has survived a recall effort against him, with 776 voters opposed to the initiative and 746 in favor. (One voter cast a blank ballot.)Under the Town Charter, he may not be the subject of another recall for a year. The narrow victory means the closely-knit team of Council Chair Gary Foster, Skip Crane and Mr. Upham will remain in power. The other two incumbent Councilors, John Welch and Denise Duda, are not running for reelection this June. Mr. Upham's supporters liked his no-nonsense style and willingness to make drastic changes in Town administration, while detractors decried his treatment of his fellow citizens. "The close vote demonstrates a deep divide in the Town. The bitter campaign ended with Mr. Upham receiving nearly twice as many votes as he did in winning election less than a year ago.”

Here is another way to write it. Biasbuster will use the same facts but choose different language. It is no secret that the Gray News backed the recall and its staff actively worked to get Upham off. Therefore, Clark chose strong and negative language to report the recall result. This is biased.
A non-biased report would go something like this. Please compare:

Upham to stay on council

Vice-Chair of the Gray Town Council, Andy Upham, will remain on the Council, with 776 voters voting to keep him in and 746 voting to recall him from the council.

Upham’s supporters liked his non-nonsense style and his work to bring a business ideology, clear performance standards, and accountability to the employees. His detractors did not like his brusque style, saying it was inappropriate and was perceived as harsh treatment of employees and volunteers.

The close vote demonstrates a wide interest in the issue due to the fact that the voting turnout is the highest it has been for 5 years. “This is unusual for a single-issue, off season election,” said Maine Municipal Attorney Joe Blow. The campaign ended with Mr. Upham receiving nearly twice as many votes as he did in winning election less than a year ago.

“I am pleased to have stayed on the council, I am looking forward to continuing to serve the citizens,” Upham said.


Delete the second part about another recall. It makes it sound like another one is imminent. One is not. Therefore, the fact has no reason to be in the article.

Delete the third part subjectively characterizing some councilors as closely knit. It is Clark’s subjective opinion that the councilors are “closely knit.” Further his omission of Duda and Welch make it seem like the other two are not closely knit, which raises more issues in the readers’ mind than if he had not written it at all. News should be clear, not raise questions. Additionally, Crane and Foster have nothing to do with Upham's successful campaign to stay on the Council. And using the phrase "in power" is unnecessary. They are "in office."

Clark said "drastic changes". What is 'drastic'? Using that word demonstrates Clark’s opinion. Others may think the changes are “necessary” or “welcome” or “reasonable”. Also, the changes he mentions are left unexplained. What changes, then? If you mention something, then explain it. News should be clear.

Clark rarely seeks outside comments from authoritative sources, such as MMA or USM etc. Using outside sources helps bring perspective to issues and lends greater credibility than if it is just Clark claiming that the vote was “bitter” and the town is “divided.” Those are his opinions, and in informing the reader, it is always better to include sources other than yourself.


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