Bad Journalism + Biased Editor = The Gray News

Friday, December 08, 2006

Gray News Failed again

On December 8, Ray Clark published:

Council moves ahead with Dispatch referendum, slows Zoning ordinance
Ray Clark and Judy Huff
"Another meeting, another boatload of questions for the Gray Town Council.
Pam Wilkinson wanted to know what's happening with Pennell, and so did Jim Monroe. The answer? Nobody knows; it's still in the hands of a judge.
Nearly a thousand signatories to a petition wanted to know what's happening with Gray Dispatch; the answer to that is clear: it's in the hands of Cumberland County until next June, when a referendum will decide whether the transfer will happen.
Lots of people wondered what's going on with the Wellhead Protection District zoning ordinance amendment, including the Water District and David Knudsen, of the Ordinance Review Committee. The answer to this one is, for the present, not much: the Council, after discovering several errors in the document, decided to send it to the Planning Board, errors and all.
Next up for the Council: planning the budget process for next year."

There are several journalistic issues with this piece. First, it is only 148 words long. In news, brevity is prized, but not to the point where all meaning and facts are left out! More on that in a minute. Second, why does it take two people to write such a short article? It seems feeble that two people were necessary to create such a fact-less article. You want vigorous news, not lame news. Also problematic is that one of the two people was a dispatcher for 25 years. If covering a dispatch issue it would be better to choose someone who has no ties whatsoever to the issue. But Nathan is on the fire rescue department and Judy was, and so there the forever Gray News issue of being involved with the news while reporting on it pops up again.

Back to the brevity issue. There is a difference in reporting that something happened than reporting what happened. This short article only reports that a meeting occurred. Not much else. Here are specifics:

“Pam Wilkinson wanted to know what's happening with Pennell, and so did Jim Monroe. The answer? Nobody knows; it's still in the hands of a judge.”
It’s good that the authors included the names of the people asking. That way readers can assess credibility. However, never assume that readers know ‘about Pennell.’ In this case, just mentioning Pennell does a disservice to the reader, who is now alerted that there is an issue but not what it is. A couple of sentences offering background are necessary here, but not one, but two authors failed to do so.

Secondly, the following is nonsensical: “Nearly a thousand signatories to a petition wanted to know what's happening with Gray Dispatch; the answer to that is clear: it's in the hands of Cumberland County until next June, when a referendum will decide whether the transfer will happen.” What is new about this piece of news? What does it mean for the reader? There is no new information, nothing illuminating for the reader why this was raised at a council meeting. Unless... it was a way for the authors, one of whom was a dispatcher paid by the town for several decades, to get a dig in at their own agenda.

Third: “Lots of people wondered what's going on with the Wellhead Protection District zoning ordinance amendment, including the Water District and David Knudsen, of the Ordinance Review Committee. The answer to this one is, for the present, not much: the Council, after discovering several errors in the document, decided to send it to the Planning Board, errors and all.”

‘Lots of people’?? Who? How many? Failure to present facts is a failure on the part of the two authors. Next: “after discovering several errors in the document” is a bad sentence. Passive tense is always bad to use in a supposed factual news article. News is supposed to illuminate facts for the reader, not dim them. So, What errors? Who discovered them? Were they minor or major?? Can Planning Board fix them? Will Council get a chance to fix them?

This piece of non-news:

1. Does not present any facts
2. Fails to shed light on issues
3. Raises more questions than it answers
4. Does a good job of clouding issues
5. Uses an author with a direct interest in the news and who had participated in it. (former Dispatch employee and Petition disseminating) which is against the code of ethics.
4. uses two authors to complete a piece that turned out to be utter failure. Which is pretty pathetic, if you ask me. That last part was opinion. Just to be clear.

7 Comments:

  • Why not send this post in letter or email to Belinda and Donoto Corsetti at the Windham Independent?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:15 AM  

  • Because I am more than hesitant to deliver anything that will get to Ray Clark. Too often, Mr. Clark has made fun of people who disagree with him, in print. On the Gray News/Nathan Tsukroff blog, they promised not to reveal e-mail addresses if people wrote in, but then they turned around and did. This week he wrote something that was patently untrue in his paper, that the council sent the ordinance with mistakes to the Planning Board. They didn't. It's dangerous to deal directly with them. I can't trust them not to retaliate, particularly in print, which has been done repeatedly over ten years.

    As for the new owners, let's see what they do with this week's factual error in their paper next week. Let's see if they urge better reporting from Mr Clark next week and it results in something comprehensible. As it is, I cannot believe they allowed something this flawed to go forward. Yikes, what does that say about them? They bought a biased lying newspaper and it will take me a long,long time to believe they mean well. They must earn the trust, it does not come automatically. So I'm staying anonymous for the time being. Hope this answers your question, thank you for suggesting it. Normally that would be the best thing to do.

    By Blogger BiasBuster, at 11:57 AM  

  • You are a shrinking violet coward

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:09 PM  

  • He said to meee, anon-y-mously! LOL! ;)

    By Blogger BiasBuster, at 7:56 PM  

  • Why not send Windham Independent your Blog Site and let them see how you disect Fact from Fiction in Ray Clark's editorials? Maybe if they can visibly see the comparisons, Ray just might be History! Ray's Lies need to be dealt with.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:16 PM  

  • a good idea, but on the other hand, they bought the paper, so they must like it. I think letting them find out on their own is more powerful. And they will find out, it's inevitable. Plus, staff change are in the wind. Wait a bit to see how things shake out.

    By Blogger BiasBuster, at 4:46 PM  

  • Ray Clark is RETIRING!!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:03 PM  

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