Bad Journalism + Biased Editor = The Gray News

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Best. Editorial. Ever.

Paul Proudian's hate blog had a little ditty back on New Year's Eve 2005/2006 regarding an acid editorial Ray Clark did against the council. One of many acid editorials Ray has punishes his readers with, ending last week with his worst ever. That was IT for Gray citizen Cal Cutter, who finally wrote tot eh paper listing his own concerns. Biasbuster has a long memory, and is enjoying with glee now that the tables are turned. Original Proudian ditty here. Note the date, Happy 2007! What a difference a year makes!

The people will get the last word... a time to speak out
Calvin Cutter

This essay is about something particularly insidious. Your unleashed columnist Ray Clark has written tirades in your last two issues and I must object to his tone and content. I was very pleased when I learned that The Windham Independent acquired ownership of The Gray News for I believed that a new editor and publisher would redirect the goals and style of The Gray News to model after The Windham Independent. But now I wonder.

The first time I met Ray Clark was about 9 years ago when I, and the late Pat Mundy, paid him a visit at the old Pennell Lab building owned by SAD 15. Pat was a former editor and publisher of The Gray News and she and I wanted to know why Clark's reports avoided certain elements of a then current issue relating to SAD 15. We did not know at that time that The Gray News was getting free rent from SAD 15, a circumstance that changed rapidly after it was brought to the attention of the school board of directors. During the meeting it became apparent that Clark didn't like to be questioned; his expression and tone turned to rage and he abruptly ended the meeting. Outside as I was headed to my vehicle Clark approached me and warned me to watch out because he gets the last word. Since that episode I have considered Ray Clark a man dangerous to the well being of the Gray community.

During Clark's 10 year tenure as editor of The Gray News the reporting became laden with biased and unfounded stories. He routinely reported on council and planning board meetings which he had not attended using hearsay and quoting undisclosed sources of information. Clark's reports included emotionally charged words and phrases, name calling, unnecessary adjectives to sway readers thoughts, conjecture and even his direct personal opinions ..all compromising a professional code of journalism ethics. Clark even reported on events in which he had vested interests a journalistic His reports would often misstate and distort the facts and he was not immune to misquoting town officials to produce a story diametrically opposite the truth. Usually he failed to get all the sides of an issue.

Clark's editorials ranged from homey tales, to whiny complaints and on to furious rants; often demonstrating ignorance of his subject and seldom provoking a thought. Demeaning his competition, The Monument, and its editor, Elizabeth Prata, was perhaps his lowest point. In the letters to the editor section Clark made it common practice to add his own remarks at the end of letters he didn't like and often the remarks were snide and demeaning to the writer. Clark got the last word ... or so he thought.

During Clark's tenure real news became scarce, advertising plummeted, the paper became a mere bulletin board, and font size became larger in order to cover the white space--but not all of it. The best testimonial to Clark's malpractice is that it spawned a new newspaper, The Monument. In that way, and only in that way, he helped this town move forward, albeit unintentionally.

So now. on 11 January, Clark whined that HE wasn't properly notified of a public hearing insinuating that therefore the hearing must be noncompliant with the sunshine laws. He didn't tell us that the sunshine laws do not require that public hearings be noticed in Clark's paper. Then, on 19 January, he branded the Gray Town Council "liars" because the Gray Town Council resolved that the Gray village area is a "slum and blighted area". He didn't tell us that The Gray Village Master Plan Committee asked the town council to adopt that specific resolution in order for the committee to proceed with its application for a $1 million federal grant from a fund which the government sets aside for "slum and blighted area". I called the Chair of the Master Plan Committee, she confirmed that Ray didn't call her. He didn't tell us that the Gray Village Master Plan Committee is moving ahead with its plans to improve the Gray village area by applying for federal grants to build new and wider sidewalks and pedestrian crosswalks, and to add state of the art street lighting and tasteful landscaping. That is classic Clark conniving. We finally have a council that is moving Gray ahead, and Clark is trying to screw it up.

Editor, the people have a choice to read your newspaper or not, and to advertise in your paper or not. The choices the people make in this regard will ultimately determine the success or failure of your newspaper and in that way the people, not Ray Clark, will get the last word.
At the beginning I wrote that I believed that a new editor and publisher would redirect the goals and style of The Gray News to model after The Windham Independent, a fine publication--but now I wonder.

I wonder if you will allow Clark to extend his bully pulpit to your newest paper, The Gray-New Gloucester Independent News? I wonder if you will allow Clark to continue in his obsession to get the last word?

I assure you Ms. Editor, the people will get the last word and that will be no wonder.
Cal Cutter

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Monday, January 22, 2007

It's over!

It’s over! The Gray News is no more. I think from my 126 posts over the past 8 months you can surmise how I feel about the Gray News. The current Gray News, under Ray Clark, not the past Gray News under previous editors. Mr. Clark is retiring and the papers will once again be as one, like they started out. Our long village nightmare is over.

Here is Mr. Clark's January 12 "article" (heh he no more scare quotes)

Ray Clark

"The Gray Independent News and The New Gloucester Independent News will become one paper, as of next Friday's issue."

"The two papers have discussed merging for several weeks, even before they were separately taken over by Weekly Ink, publisher of the Windham Independent. The Gray News became part of the Weekly Ink family last November; The New Gloucester News joined on January 1, 2007."

"The merger is a natural, since the two Towns share a school district and several correspondents. Michael Fralich's column, Greetings from Norumbega, and Liz Chandler's news of St. Gregory's Parish appeared in both papers. Several advertisers run in both papers, too, and they will enjoy a lower per-reader rate."

"With the retirement of Gray Independent News editor Ray Clark, it is expected that Jackie Rybeck, editor of The New Gloucester Independent News, will assume the editor's chair at the combined paper."

"The new paper, which has not yet been named, will publish on Fridays. It will be mailed free to all Gray residents and dropped off at several locations in Gray and New Gloucester. The publisher has not decided whether to mail to New Gloucester residents. Home office for the new paper will continue to be at The Gray Independent News offices on Route 26..."

This week Ray Clark in his IMHO column called the councilors outright “liars.” That’s over the top, even for Ray Clark. A proper editorial would have welcomed the readers to the new paper and would have said something nice about the new editor and the publisher. Good job readers, for expecting better of your paper and hopefully now you will be getting it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The World According to Ray Clark

Former Editor Ray Clark is upset. He claims that since the council sent the Gray News notice of an upcoming meeting too late for the Gray News’s deadline, that they broke the Freedom of Access law, which states that the public has a right to reasonable notification of the peoples’ business.

Here is the citation:

Maine's Freedom of Access law says: "Public notice shall be given for all public proceedings as defined in Section 402, if these proceedings are a meeting of a body or agency consisting of 3 or more persons. This notice shall be given in ample time to allow public attendance and shall be disseminated in a manner reasonably calculated to notify the general public in the jurisdiction served by the body or agency concerned."

Here is Mr. Clark’s reaction to the Planner having sent the notice to Mr. Clark: “As editor of The Gray Independent News, I'm getting e-mails notifying me of public meetings late on Wednesdays-after the paper has gone to press.”

However, Mr. Clark is a bit myopic in this regard. He is upset that the Gray News didn’t receive the notice in time for his deadline. However, the Right to Know law does not state that the government must use the Gray News to notify the public. The Right to Know law does not state that the government must work around the Gray News’s deadlines. Nowhere does it state that the council or Planner must keep Mr. Clark and his newspaper in mind when the notices go out.

The town disseminates notices in the following manner: Posted in three prominent places in town, usually the Post Office, the Town Hall, and Gray Plaza. The town exceeds the law's minimum notification requirement by also announcing it at a public meeting, many of which are televised;, sending the notice to the cable committee for broadcast on the community bulletin board; and sending it to The Monument, The Press Herald, and the Gray News. That the council does not handle the notices exactly the way Mr. Clark feels they should is beside the point. What Mr. Clark should be concerned with is if the council is following the law. And they are.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Some things about Sharon Bondroff

Gray News writer Sharon Bondroff has a blog. You can get a sense of her writing at

There aren't many posts but there are some of her personal life and the one near the bottom where she goes on for quite a while about how she hates anonymous comments. She calls people who comment anonymously, even if they are speaking positively about something, 'dissers.' Her blog is called Crazy In Gray. No disrespect intended I'm sure.

She also writes at, there's a piece entitled "An Anonymous Rant." People who comment are people who 'rant'? No disrespect intended, I'm sure.

Sharon Bondroff was treasurer of the Democrat for Governor Chris Miller campaign a few months ago. She is also the business partner and life partner of Steve Bunker, who also ran for public office, making a bid for State Legislature (House) as a Democrat. Good to know the new "reporter" of the local free weekly is such an active Democrat.

On February 24, 2006, Sharon Bondroff wrote in The Gray News: "Andrew Upham, acting as if he'd won a landslide, flexed his power muscles and set off to remake Gray in his image. No matter that Gary Foster was council chair. Upham spoke up and often, running roughshod over other peoples ideas, plans, and proposals. He was on a tear, driving a stake into the Pennell referendum, micro-managing employee decisions, spotlighting their deficiencies, swiftly creating a culture of confrontation and intimidation, including but not limited to the public disparagement of town employees and volunteer committees." Good to know where she stands on the vice-chair of the council she is covering.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Sharon Bondroff is biased. Here's how.

On January 5, Sharon Bondroff wrote: "Marchian "Skip" Crain voting for it, Andy Upham and Alison Libby opposing it. Julie DeRoche was not present due to an attack of the flu.

The previous post discussed Sharon Bondroff's factual errors in her write up of the council meeting. Sigh...

Anyway, Ms. Bondroff decided, when writing about Mr. Crane, to use his given name, Marchian, even though he is commonly known as Skip. Her decision to do that is a subtle dig, and a demonstration of bias. Now, she could argue that that is his legal name and the one with which he signed his nomination papers. She would be right. However, she cannot use that as an argument as to why she did it. Andy's name is legally Andrew, and Julie's legal name is Julia. So why did Ms. Bondroff see fit to pick out Mr. Crane's given name but chose to use the common nicknames for everyone else? Because she is biased. Unequal application of a standard indicates a choice to highlight one over the other, so it is a perfect example of bias.

Sharon is the master of the subtle dig. Watch for it in her writing.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Sharon Bondroff? Not much of an improvement

Sharon Bondroff wrote on a council meeting for The Gray News. On the one hand it’s good that the paper has an actual person actually attending meetings on which they write about. The Vapor Approach and the Make It Up As We Go Along Approach were getting tiresome.

However, Ms Bondroff’s approach is obviously one that mirrors her fluffy creative non-fiction writing and is not based on any journalism training or other news media education. In seeking to write evocatively and prettily, like in her old personal columns she used to do for a little while, instead of just reporting, she missed the fact in front of her face. Literally.

Each councilor has a name plate in front of them. Ms Bondroff was at a meeting for at least three hours, staring at the name plates. At said meeting the idea is to listen, write, and look around. Facts abound. Including the name plate in front of each Councilor, which, though staring at it for three hours, Ms Bondroff misspelled when it came time to put the facts to paper. It’s CRANE, not CRAIN. It's LIBBEY. Not Libby. Oy.

Skip Crane has been a councilor for a year and a half. His name has been spelled properly in three papers, exists on the town website and is broadcast almost daily on local cable. She stared at it for three hours. Where has she been? Small mistakes are telling, making the observant and intelligent reader wonder, “If Ms. Bondroff got so simple a thing wrong, a fact so obvious and basic, what else did Bondroff miss?”