Bad Journalism + Biased Editor = The Gray News

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Ray Clark's report is an "F"

On August 18 Ray Clark wrote about the council's decision to hold a public hearing. The hearing would be to get input regarding a charter change, which is to allow voting on town budget at referendum instead of town meeting. Ray Clark's report was unsatisfactory in every way. Here's why. But first, Mr. Clark's report:

"The Gray Town Council has set a public hearing for September 5 on its plan to alter fundamentally the way the Town adopts its budget. The issue would go before the Town at the November ballot."

"As proposed, a Town Meeting in May would determine which budget articles would be placed on a ballot for referendum voting in June. Voters would have 20 or more individual line items to vote on; if one or more failed, a new Town Meeting would be called to offer revised budget items to the voters in another referendum. Meanwhile, the previous year's budget numbers would be in effect, allowing essential Town services to continue."

"The Council, at its meeting Tuesday night, emphasized that this plan could change as a result of the public hearing, details of which will be made public next week. Council Chair Gary Foster said that the Town Attorney, William Dale, had suggested that the change was not substantial enough to require a Charter Commission."

"Voting on the budget by referendum, according to its proponents, would allow more citizens to participate in the budget process."

First, the discussion lasted a while. Councilors and citizens spoke. For citizens at home who do not watch the TV or do not attend the meeting, reading the news report is one of the only ways to become informed. Who said what? Were all councilors in favor of it? Against it? What were their reasons for being for or against? Mr. Clark's bare bones presentation does not tell the reader the background of, impetus for, or result of the discussion.

Next, Were there citizens there? What did they say? Were all citizens who spoke for it, or against it? We don't know, and if you finish reading a news article not knowing more than when you started, the report has failed.

Next, was there an action? Did the council have to vote on whether to have a public hearing? Was the vote unanimous? Split? Again, failure to inform reduces this article to the unsatisfactory category.

Next, Mr. Clark alluded to a suggestion that Attorney Bill Dale made regarding the proposed charter change. In fact, it was a written opinion, and a reporter doing diligence would have had the creativity, energy, or wherewithal to obtain the opinion and quote it. A reporter should always cite a source and the existence of source documentation should be used at all times to support a contention, especially one written as weakly as Mr. Clark wrote: full of second-hand hearsay and 'suggestions.'

Next, Mr. Clark mentioned "proponents." Who are they? What do they propose? Mr. Clark states that there are proponents, but doesn't say who they are or why they are for it. So how does he know how they feel? Or what they said? Or even that there are any? A blanket statement without sourcing, names, or quotes, means we can assume that it isn't true. Mr. Clark's statement about proponents can and should be disregarded out of hand.

Last, if a reporter mentions proponents, one must also give the opposing view a chance to air their reasons. Who are the opponents? What do they feel, think, say? Mentioning proponents without balance to the other view is biased.

Mr. Clark did not attend the meeting, and without grounded facts, quotes, and source documentation, his reporting falls to the level of fiction, not fact. Fiction in a news report equals failure. I give this piece an "F"

3 Comments:

  • "In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story."
    Walter Cronkite

    Never does Ray Clark do this.

    By Anonymous Rover, at 4:02 AM  

  • How does Ray Clark alow such blatant lies to be printed in what his board asserts is a "news" paper?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:38 PM  

  • Ray Clark's Report Card deserves an "F" Some descriptives that come to mind are: Falsehood..flimflam..Foolish..Fractious..Fraud..Frivolous..Fuddy-Duddy..Futile..Fluctuate..Flounder..Fickle..Fabricate..Failure!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:08 PM  

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