Bad Journalism + Biased Editor = The Gray News

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Editors should not berate

In last week's edition of The Gray News, Hon., Cliff Foster sent in a letter referring to citizen referendums. Often in the past, when a letter writer stated something with which Editor Ray Clark did not agree, he would attach a rejoinder appended to the conclusion of the writer's letter.

Editors in most newspapers of stature do not condone this practice. Good editors refrain from involvement and allow the citizens to have their say. If there is a severe misunderstanding of a point an editor had made, a private phone call is a more respectful way to learn more about the letter writer's thoughts and share his own.

However, to make matters worse, if the letter writer states an opinion contrary to one that Clark holds, Clark's appended comment will be snide, condescending, derisive, or just plain mean. Sometimes all at once.

That practice is never done by professional editors. It is journalistic abuse of the highest order to use the newspaper to berate contributors.

Clark has not done that for a while, but last week he showed that he still has a temper and an immature streak that prevents him from professional restraint. He chose to abuse his position by stating the following after Foster's letter:

"I did not state that 'citizen referendums are not necessary'; Mr. Foster must have dreamed that notion."

Editor Clark should immediately do three things:

1. Apologize to Mr. Foster, who took time to contribute his thoughts to Clark's paper
2. Stop deriding letter writers in print
3. Learn how not to take things personally. Having a reflexive negative emotional response to letters is a recipe for a heart attack, demonstrates lack of professionalism, and injures the reputation of a fine industry: newspaper editing.

Editors should be respectful of their readers, thankful that citizens read the paper and contribute their thoughts (and ads), and grateful that they have an opportunity to serve their citizens.

Mr Clark is none of those things and that is why he is a disrespectful, immature, unprofessional editor.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Brevity is disrespectful in some cases

In the October 20 issue of the Gray News, Ray Clark wrote:

"Dispatch goes to Cumberland"
"The Gray Town Council voted at its Tuesday meeting to transfer Gray Fire-Rescue's dispatch operation to Cumberland County. The move is intended to save the Town money.
Other entities offering dispatch services included the Maine State Police and a combination of the dispatch offices of Raymond and Gray. Only Cumberland County and the State Police submitted actual bids. Despite Councilor Andy Upham's policy against doing business with fewer than three bids, the Council's vote was unanimous."

A brief entry such as this does more to misinform than inform because it leaves the reader with many questions.

Clark chose to write 'intended to save the town money' but chose not to write how much it will save, why Council wanted to go in this direction, or what the costs used to be before the vote.

He chose to raise the issue of the three bids but chose not to ask the council about it, or inform the readers as to the reasons why two bids instead of three.

He chose to cloud the issue by stating two entities submitted "actual" bids, leaving the reader to wonder if there were other bids, or to wonder what he meant by 'actual.'

He chose to say the council voted, but chose not to disclose that it was unanimous. He chose not to print any of the council comments during discussion, he chose not to print any audience comments, he chose not to print any comments uttered from Gray Dispatch. He chose not to print any parameters of the bids, or what will happen next now that the vote has come down.

He chose to lie, and claim that it was 'Andy Upham's policy' and not that the three-bid policy had been in place in the Manager's Administrative Code long before Andy Upham came to town.

In short, Clark printed a brief article in which he chose to dispense the information he wanted and not the information the readers needed.

Ray Clark is a bad reporter.

Monday, October 16, 2006

We'll tell you how to vote

In this week's Gray News, Editor Ray Clark begins his editorial by stating: "This newspaper never tells anybody how to vote, and we're not about to start now."

This is not true.

Biasbuster has several issues with the untruthfulness of Clark's editorial. As we have learned in prior posts, the point of an editorial is to offer opinion on issues of the day that are concurrent with or subsequent to the newspaper's having presented the facts about the issue in a news report.

The problem is, the Gray News has not presented one fact or one article about TABOR. But Clark is telling you, in his way, that TABOR sucks. Without having offered readers a chance to learn the facts about the issue, Clark's negative editorial toward TABOR means he is doing exactly what he says he's not: telling you how to vote.

The second issue I have with his claim that he is really, really not telling you how to vote is that the paper is politically active and therefore biased. For example, the editor was president of the Gray Public Library Association, and used his newspaper to cloud the facts around the Library expansion and hide the fact that his group was planning to present a hugely costly bond. They spent newspaper ink and newspaper space telling you what to think about the GPLA while politically participating in the GPLA and trying to influence the council process and decision about it.

Also, the newspaper fomented and participated in the recent recall attempt of Andy Upham. Their newspaper Board members, and their minutes taker Nathan Tsukroff, circulated political petitions to get rid of the vice-chair. All the while the editor was claiming in his editorial that he wasn't telling you how to vote.

He is not being truthful with himself, with the readers, or with his profession.

Of course he is telling you how to vote. I just wish he'd be honest about it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

No news is not news

A newspaper should have news in it, one would think. News covering the important meetings, news that analyzes, news that informs. Community stories about friends and neighbors, and calendar of upcoming events.

As I stated earlier in another post, which listed from Wikipedia the appropriate elements a newspaper should have in it, The Gray News (as any newspaper) should have news, community notes, entertainment, sports, and opinion. The September 29 issue of the Gray News does not have any news in it. It does not have any coverage of meetings, issues, events, or analysis.

It has some community postings of upcoming events, such as news from the Wildlife Park, a boy getting Eagle Scout, and church bulletins. There's a release from the HS Guidance office, and a correction to messing up a name last week and an apology for a missing column. And a fluff editorial musing about the seasons. That's just about it.

Not that what's in there isn't important, but a real newspaper should have an appropriate mix, and that mix should of course include news, the foundation of its existence. With no news in the paper, if a newspaper falls on the doorstoop, does anyone hear it?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Is it Halloween already?

If we are to follow Ray Clark's pattern and penchant for personal diatribes and stream of unconsciousness editorials, I am betting he will follow up the cutting edge editorial in the non-Gray News of September 29, entitled "Hey, who stole September?" with: "Is it Halloween already?" on October 27, and the November 24th issue with an editorial entitled "Guess what? Christmas is almost here!"

I can hardly wait.

Editorials should illuminate an aspect of civic life or shed light on municipal issues. With Ray Clark, we don't get that, but we do get a peek at his negative thoughts, his vacuous ideas, and his bitter heart.

As the wise Chinese proverb says, "Keep your broken arm inside your sleeve."

Something to think about...