Bad Journalism + Biased Editor = The Gray News

Monday, November 20, 2006

Have a grumpy Thanksgiving

This week’s Gray News editorial was written by a man who dubs himself “old and stubborn” and boy does it show. Biasbuster cannot bust the news in the paper this week because there wasn’t any. Christmas Parade alert, church news, the paper is and always will be a bulletin board.

Editor Mr. Clark’s editorials though, show the same odd mix of pessimism, disapproval, and condescension that Mr. Clark is so well known for subjecting us to.

Editors traditionally use the editorial box at this time of year to offer well-wishes, inspire, and/or lighten up from the year’s heavy issues. However, Mr. Clark uses the Thanksgiving week editorial box to belittle his readers, remind us of his pessimism, and generally leave a sour taste in our brain after reading his woefully negative message.

His first line starts us off with the usual negativity by reminding us that not only he, but all of us, constantly ‘complain,’ ‘grouse,’ and ‘gripe.’ I do not know about you but I am generally more cheerful than that. The next part informs us that we “curl up around our woes.” Mr. Clark is assuming wrongly that we all have woes, or that we focus on them, or that we share them incessantly.

Even trying to when extol the virtues of his wife, he says that she “has put up with me for 51 years, which means she has had plenty of cause to investigate the joys of the single life.” Wow, what a ringing endorsement. Wouldn’t it be nice to read something warm! Like, like, um, how about this! “I love my wife so very much and I am glad we share this life together, thankful that she and I have had the time together that we have had.” I’d much rather read something like that, especially at Thanksgiving. Wouldn’t you?

Did you ever notice that when Mr. Clark does state an unvarnished compliment or positive notion, that he always takes it back right away with something negative? He cannot, will not, and does not go whole hog into optimist land. Like this: “I'm thankful I live in Gray, Maine, too, although I admit it sometimes drives me crazy.” I”d much rather read a plain old compliment, not the old bait and switch.

He does take the time to insincerely remind us that he is grateful to the councilors who donate their “time and talent” to the town.” Which is patently laughable when he worked so hard to remove one of them and used the editorial box to tell us in no uncertain terms how they were unworthy of that position, over and over again, and angrily, explicitly, and hatefully, too.

Finally, the end of Mr. Clark’s less than warm editorial, he thanks us for being us. I am not making this up. After admitting the town drives him crazy, after listlessly endorsing his long marriage and wanly compliments his wife, after two paragraphs of writing that use numerous synonyms for “complain,” and a two-faced mention to the councilors he so hated for most of the year, Mr. Clark thanks us for being us.

Aren’t you thankful the Gray News was bought out and we may not have to endure another “holiday greeting” from Mr. Raymond P. Clark? Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A lying Editor? Not good

It's confirmed that the Windham Independent has bought the Gray News, The Monument published this week. As the new owner indicated, negotiations to buy the paper began months ago.

This fact has now been confirmed by new owner Donato Corsetti, twice, once in June by The Monument Newspaper, and now again in November by the Monument Newspaper. Despite the confirmation, Editor Ray Clark chose to lie about the upcoming sale. He printed in April, "the Gray News has not been purchased, is not discussing being purchased and is not for sale," which we now know is a lie.

It would have been better to say "no comment" than to speak and print an outright lie. I feel sorry for The Gray News and its editor Ray Clark and I feel sorry for its new owner.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Won't that be nice

Oh boy! Maybe I don’t have to do this anymore! The Gray News sold out to an out of town businessman, who owns several newspapers. The Gray News is part of a chain now.

I hope that the new owner will monitor the Gray News staff (of two: Nathan and Ray) and publish articles that have some facts in them! And from which the reporter actually went to the meeting! And isn’t angry, petulant, scathing, snide, or pompous!

Won’t that be nice.

I’ve learned from watching the news industry though that you’re supposed to be optimistically skeptical. So Biasbuster will watch for a while to see if there are any positive changes before moving off to do other things.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that improvements will be made…that the staff is shaped up or shipped out…that the newspaper becomes once more not an embarrassment to the town, themselves, and the entire journalism industry.

Won’t that be nice.

I can’t wait to declare: “My Work Here is Done.”

Monday, November 06, 2006

Emergency! Bad DIspatching article

Gray dispatch closed in sudden move
Ray Clark

“The Gray Town Council voted on October 17 to move fire-rescue dispatch operations from Gray to Cumberland County as of January 1, 2007, citing the resignation of two Gray dispatchers.”

Partly true. They also cited improved service, regionalization, and cost savings. The report should be as complete as possible. Selecting which facts to present skews the article.

“One had resigned several weeks ago, before the decision to move dispatch was made, and one resigned when he found a new position.”

Partly true. They also resigned suddenly, exposing the Town with inadequate emergency calling coverage. Hiding facts makes the report biased.

“The Town closed the Gray dispatch office on Friday, October 27, without warning or notice. At least one employee was given just two weeks severance pay and two weeks vacation pay, despite being terminated nine weeks early.”

The notice was short because emergency services were compromised due to the actions of dispatchers who quit. And how many weeks severance pay do non-dispatching mortals usually get?

“The Council and Town Manager felt they had no choice but to make the move to Cumberland County immediately as a result of the resignations, although substitute dispatchers were available.”

Notice that Clark does not ask the council directly. How does he know how they “felt”? Since does not cite a source for the statement, like quotes from a meeting, or an interview, it is more mind-reading than reporting.

Who are these substitute dispatchers? Do they work for Gray? How many are there? Did Mr. Clark call them? Did he ask the manager why they weren’t used? No to all. Underreporting is biased reporting. It’s also lazy.

“One of the dispatchers will remain on the job for some unspecified period, …”

“For some unspecified period”? Any editor worth his salt would never let a vague statement like that go to print.

“Weekend callers to 657-3931-the nonemergency phone number for Gray Fire-Rescue-found themselves talking to Cumberland County. That problem at least has been rectified by the presence of the administrative assistant. But such calls before 9, after 4 or on weekends will apparently continue to be forwarded to Cumberland County Dispatch, crowding emergency calls.”

The non-emergency number is the non-emergency number. And choosing to use “apparently” in a sentence describing the sensitive emergency call process deliberately creates a dangerous situation. Reporters try to be a specific as possible in the journalistic effort of informing the reader, not less. By choosing to be unspecific, Mr. Clark inflames, not informs.

Finally, deliberately and unnecessarily creating the panicky specter of ‘crowding emergency calls’ is ugly personal politics in the extreme. It is highly irresponsible. This article is so far from journalism it makes me wonder if Mr. Clark is sane.