Bad Journalism + Biased Editor = The Gray News

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.


  • Please call the town office if you signed this petition and then were informed of the truth. You can have your name removed from this petition...and should!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:54 AM  

  • I like the headline for this one!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:53 PM  

  • Ray Clark's deliberate attempt to create the panicky Specter of "Crowding Emergency Calls" is UGLY POLITICS, indeed! It's Extreme...Irresponsible...and Cruel.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:08 AM  

  • Please everybody stop posting on "gary04039" blog as it has revertyed to the same old personal attacks under a different name blog. There is no place for this in Gray.
    Thank you.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:40 AM  

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