Bad Journalism + Biased Editor = The Gray News

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.

14 Comments:

  • Ray Clark and the directors of the Gray News are reaping what they have sowed.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:29 AM  

  • Very True! "What goes-around-Comes-around.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:32 AM  

  • When will the the last rites be given?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:20 PM  

  • Did you forget that they used to collect monetary donations in an annual fundraising drive - at a time when they were financially viable. Now it goes to a scholarship fund, which is excellent and commendable, but the Christmas Card list has gotten smaller and smaller.

    My favorite thing was when they did the Gray Snooze on April Fools Day. It was a great idea gone jaw dropping awry. They tried to be clever, but instead managed to insult the very people they thought they were flattering.

    I don't feel bad about their demise. We can't afford to live in the past here in Gray.

    By Anonymous rose in colored glasses, at 8:45 AM  

  • Yes I did forget, thank you. I was not aware that those donations went to a scholarship. I had thought they kept it.

    Most Newspapers donate to the community in lots of ways, public and private. Most newspapers donate time, free ads, and/or money to fundraisers, events, and scholarships. That the Gray News did, too, is nice.

    I am sorry, respectfully I would have to disagree with you the Gray Snooze issue. While it might have been a clever idea gone awry, (sometimes it was just mean, like making fun of Jankowski's speech impediment), I don't think it is a the place of the paper to turn itself into a joke. Maybe I'm too serious, though.

    Thanks for commenting. I liked your phrase 'can't afford to live in the past'.

    By Blogger BiasBuster, at 8:57 AM  

  • IMHO confuses me most of the time and I just don't get it the rest of the time. It's so full of references that I don't understand - to people and events that happened in the past - that it doesn't make sense to casual reader. He's got to be writing for a very small audience.

    It's free, and I read it. But I wouldn't spend money to buy it.

    this was an interesting blog site to read through.

    you're smart, whoever you are.

    By Anonymous rose in colored glasses, at 7:16 AM  

  • Thank you! What an interesting comment you made. It's something I have not thought of, likely because I've been around sooo long that I understand the references. But I see it now, through your eyes.

    A newspaper should come at an issue fresh every time, with the perspective that there are new readers every time. Because there are. I guess that's why the Gray News feels 'clubby', Thanks for the thought.

    By Blogger BiasBuster, at 7:28 AM  

  • This Sunday, 24 September, from 1pm to 4pm there will be a reception and farewell party at the American Legion Hall in Gray in honor of Elizabeth Prata. Ms. Prata is the founder, and until recently, the publisher and editor of The Monument Newspaper covering the Gray, New Gloucester, Raymond, and North Yarmouth communities.

    Many of us feel that Elizabeth achieved professional standards in journalism never before enjoyed by our communities. Her thorough and articulate reports of newsworthy local interests gave us knowledge we would not have had before The Monument Newspaper was born. Her investigative editorials questioning ethics and demanding accountability gave a voice to local majorities previously suppressed. Elizabeth challenged us to be more involved within our communities and because of her achievements, the democratic principle of participation in government has been significantly revived today.

    Sunday's reception is open to all and all will be warmly welcomed. Come and share our tribute to professional journalism and enjoy exquisite food and soft drinks.

    By Anonymous Cal Cutter, at 7:36 PM  

  • AMEN...I have seen in both papers lately, without follow up corrections. Elizabeth is already missed!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:24 PM  

  • What was incorrect in The Monument that needed correction? I did see one correction lately clarifying the charter amendment issue. What else? And the editor John Balentine needs to know, he can be reached at jbalentine@keepmecurrent.com

    By Blogger BiasBuster, at 12:33 PM  

  • After Mr. Balentine offered an entire page for John Welchto rant his lies, I lost confidence in any of Gray's papers.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:08 AM  

  • That, I agree was a bad move, but only because we know the situation here. The new editor was trying to make sure to give voice to people. They erred on the side of openness.

    I would hope that you give the new people more than one misstep before you write them off.

    By Blogger BiasBuster, at 7:26 AM  

  • Ray Clark's 'editorial' in the latest Gray News was absurd! His repetitive statements about 'losing September' were a 'classic example' of what a POOR so-called journalist HE is! What a waste of space; and most definitely 'Un-newsworthy' topic! All the more reason why He Just Doesn't have what it takes to be involved with ANY Newspaper!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:26 AM  

  • It didn't take 'The Gray Independent' long to evaluate Ray's capabilities as an Editor...Ray Clark is Retiring!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:33 PM  

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