Bad Journalism + Biased Editor = The Gray News

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?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Waiting for latest edition. I know they won't disappoint

I can hardly wait to bust The Gray News tomorow. I happen to know that the major photo on the front is...a chipmunk. Way to go, Gray News, in the face of 9-11's five year anniversary.

Ray Clark is lazy and blames others

In the September 1 issue, Ray Clark wrote:

"Why no bus schedule?

"We're sorry, but the MSAD 15 Transportation Department did not provide The Gray News with a bus schedule in time for publication this week. If you have questions about the bus times or routes, please call MSAD #15 at 657 3335."

Oh my. Where to begin. Well, first of all, The Monument printed the schedules two weeks ago, so the schedules were ready, and freely given out. So it is not a question of the MSAD 15 Transportation Department failing to make the schedules in time, nor a question of them being held back from everyone. Therefore, if the schedules were finished, offered, and published in another paper, why did the Gray News not get them?

Because they expected them to fall into their lap. They thought the Department would automatically give them to the Gray News, because they think that they are the center of the Universe and the Department had absolutely nothing else to do the week before school starts except make sure the Gray News has everything it needs to fill its paper.

Then they write a blaming blurb against the Department.

Here is what they should have written:

"We're sorry, but apparently we were sitting around on our lazy butts with our thumbs up our noses, expecting all the news to fall into our lap. But because we are increasingly irrelevant and hold outdated notions of newsgathering, it didn't. The news, oddly, was not provided to us in time for publication this week. If you have questions about our lack of news, or just want to call and berate us because we stink, please call the Gray News at 657 2200."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Former charter commission member Ray Clark didn't learn much

On August 25, Ray Clark wrote an article entitled, "Council hurries to amend Charter on budget voting"

1. This is a false headline. The council cannot amend the charter. Only the people can, at the polls. See earlier post on why Ray Clark is lying here.

2. Ray Clark wrote: The proposal arose several months ago, at the suggestion of then-councilor John Welch. During his last few months in office, he repeatedly asked the Council to discuss it, but other members refused."

This also is a lie.

The issue arose specifically on January 23, 2006 as a workshop agenda item. Councilor Welch proposed it and his fellow councilors suggested that he put together language and bring it back to a subsequent workshop or meeting to discuss. It was Welch who took his time bringing back language, and the issue was discussed on March 7, 2006, as per Welch's request.

Meanwhile, the Manager quit, leaving the council to cope with a top vacancy, constructing a budget without that top leadership, and in the political realms, a recall effort of one of their own. The council told Welch they would bring the charter amendment issue up in a timely manner, but since the issue could not be resolved until the November elections, they triaged other more pressing issues that had earlier hard deadlines, like producing a budget by April and preparing warrants for June elections. The charter amendment issue was promised to Welch as one that would be dealt with. The promise made by the Chair is on video.

The issue was on agendas and discussed since then, when on May 9 it was placed on the Council's 'Bring-Up List" a list designed to bring attention to issues the council wants to deal with. The charter amendment issue was also on agendas including May 15, June 6, July 11, July 24, August 15, and Posted as a public notice on the Town's Home Page on August 23. The Gray News also published that the Council would discuss it at their August 7, 2006 workshop:

"Discuss Charter Amendment for budget referendum vote
Review August 15 Council agenda, August 21 workshop agenda

The council purposely made the charter amendment issue the only issue to be discussed for the entire evening, and they discussed it for over 3 hours. This meeting was open to the public and anyone could have participated...and several people did. Mr. Clark knows this. So when he writes "That doesn't leave much time for public input on the issue", he is not correct. The town did its diligence in posting notices and agendas for the last 8 months about the issue.

Mr. Clark's entire article can be refuted as lies by the facts that are contained on video and on the town's minutes, agendas, and in his own paper.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Mr. Clark should not lie

In the September 1 issue, Ray Clark wrote: "Time is running out on the Town Council's effort to change the way Gray votes on its budget."

This is a lie.

The way Gray votes on its budget is at Town Meeting. That meeting is the people's meeting, and the people vote on the budget. Council's vote on the budget at Town Meeting has no more weight than the regular citizen sitting next to them. The process is written in the town's Charter, which is the governing document, like a town's Constitution. The Council cannot change it.

In order to change the charter, the council, or a number of certified voters who have signed a petition, MUST put the issue on a referendum ballot and the people decide if they want to change it at the polls. Therefore the Council does NOT "change the way Gray votes." The people do, at the polls. The disappointing thing is that Mr. Clark knows this. He was on the former Charter Commission and is intimately familiar with the charter process.

Therefore his lead sentence is a deliberate lie, designed to misinform the reader.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

News is not just Black and White: News judgment

News judgment involves deciding which stories to pursue, how they are pursued, and where they are placed in the paper. A review of the Gray News's front page this week (9-1-06) shows the severe lack of news judgment. But first, what is news judgment?

Some of the key factors include:

Impact: The Town council is preparing to offer voters the opportunity to decide whether to change the structure of town meeting, something that impacts everyone in town. The Gray News did decide to publish an article about it, however, in their judgment they placed it below the fold and underneath press releases promoting an auction and a notice about town hall operational hours. This is poor news judgment because the bigger impact story is relegated to a lesser status.

Conflict: If a story has a conflict, it is a bigger story than that which does not have one. The front page presents a story about a town employee receiving an award over the article about the biggest change in town government in its history. Poor news judgment.

Prominence: Are celebrities or politicians involved in a story? If so, it's a bigger story. The Gray News rarely has anyone of prominence in its paper so this note about news judgment is moot.

Proximity: If your newspaper is in Gray, Maine, and a rash of burglaries occurs on Main Street, that's big news. But if a rash of burglaries occurs in Worcester, Mass., you are not as interested because it isn't close to your readers. This week, The Gray News published a long column inside the paper about a man who had an experience in Boston, 200 miles away. That space could have been saved for more immediate articles with higher relevance to the general population.

Freshness: The front page dedicated half a column to an event that will be held 7 weeks from now. That's not as fresh as other news occurring more immediately. As to photos, it should be noted that three weeks ago the paper's major, front page photo was of fireworks. This week, the major, front page photo is of fireworks. Repeating the same photos is not fresh.

Novelty: There's a saying that "if a dog bites a man it isn't news, but if a man bites a dog, that's news." Human interest. Unfortunately, there is not one article on the Gray News's front page that's novel. That is because they rely on releases and don't write articles themselves. Of the five front page articles, only one was written by news staff. Of the entire paper, only 25% is originally written, but submitted by outside contributors, not news staff. Worst of all, only 10% of the entire paper this week was written by a Gray News staff member. Three small articles. Not novel at all.

These factors are all a part of news judgment. The Gray News regularly fails to display any.

Source News is Not Just Black and White, a workbook produced by the Canadian Newspaper Association.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Thoughts on consequences of speech

The recall crowd is good at trying to deflect responsibility for the things they say and do. I have some thoughts about that, and how the blogs and The Gray News folks try to escape it.

The recall crowd calls Gary and Andy names, cruelly depict them negatively in cartoons, and malign their reputations. They lampoon them in the newspaper, on blogs, on television, and in social circles. They construct hate blog after hate blog and relentlessly attack them politically and sickeningly, they attack them
personally, too. They depict Gary as a puppet, a Three Stooge, a chicken, and Mini Me, the tiny midget from the Austin Powers movies. They call him a mama’s boy, claim the town is FUC’d (Acronym for Foster-Upham-Crane), said he is “panicky,” a “sycophant,” “clown,” “abusive,” “closed-minded,” part of a “Town council from hell,” “incompetent,” “paranoid,” and a “petulant thug.” They make allegations about his romantic life, his sexual identity, and his social life. They claimed he ‘ruined the town.’

Mr. Foster took all that with dignity, statesman-like aplomb, and went about the business of representing the people. He remarked, that “those who say such things and use such speech are hateful and intolerant." (entire statement here,)

A local blogger named TinMan said: “You would think that any normal thinking chairperson would have NEVER taken such a strong one sided action against the very people he represents.”

Really? It think it’s funny that Tinman, Batgirl, Tsukroff, Clark, Crandall, and Proudian are constantly surprised that one might have an opinion about the hateful things they say.

Tinman doesn’t understand that when one uses hate speech, there is a consequence. People will have opinions about what you are saying and doing, and how you are saying and doing it. People react with disgust to hate bloggers Batgirl, Tinman, and to community problem-makers Ray Clark, Paul Proudian, Nathan Tsukroff, and Don Crandall, because they recoil from hate and intolerance. One cannot say hateful and intolerant things with impunity and expect no comment. They funny thing is, they do.

Bloggers, and community problem-makers Clark, Proudian, Crandall, and Tsukroff: freedom of speech goes both ways. Frederick Douglass said, "Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want rain without thunder and lightning." Gentlemen, if you gush rain on people, then get used to the thunder and lightning. Or if you're Gary Foster, a polite "ahem."