Paper's dumbing down process vindicated by state press associationToday's issue of the Glens Falls, NY Post-Star daily trumpeted the fact that several of its staff won New York State Associated Press awards for their work. But what amazed me is a few of the items that were deemed good enough for a state award.
One award was given for an enormous, horribly cheesy graphic (known euphemistically as a 'photo illustration') used in a story on credit card debt. It was so bad that even though the story was months ago and even though it was only a 'photo illustration,' I STILL remember the graphic. It showed a young woman, a reporter I presume, with a handful of credit cards and an absurd and contrived look of horror on her face, like something out of a bad slasher movie.
A 'photo illustration' is different from an real photo. A real photo for said story might show a woman actually featured in the article sitting at a table poring over credit card statements.
The article was actually good, far closer to deserving of an award than the cheesy graphic. But this hideous 'photo illustration' distracted people from what was a decent article. I remember cringing when I saw it..
It baffles me that the paper feels the need to run these things. Do they feel that the writing in their paper is so bad that they need the distraction? Do they not have confidence in the caliber of their journalists? Why do they play up the bells and whistles instead of the meat and potatoes?
Maybe the New York AP loves these photos that would be more appropriate in Seventeen magazine, but I don't know many Post-Star readers who rave about them.
Editorial writer Mark Mahoney also won a state award for his many hysterical editorials on teen drinking... which were part of the paper's crusade of the month back in the spring of this year.
It's bad enough that he and managing editor Ken Tingley stoked the 'stone the heretics' mania against any person who dared disgree with their orthodoxy and all but demanded that anyone who offered a fair, logical counterargument be burnt at the stake (all while patting themselves on the back incessantly for 'starting the discussion') But to be rewarded for such irresponsibility under the dishonest guise of 'dialogue'? How sad.
These awards aren't just incidental but downright unfortunate. They will almost certainly be seen inside the paper as vindication for the dumbing down campaign that's ruining the once-solid paper. A process that caused the daily to reduce the limit for (signed) letters to the editor to 300 words; it had been 33% higher. This occured just as the paper decided to introduce a space-consuming feature allowing anonymous comments on particular topics... in addition to the cheap shots offered by Post-Star employees under the cloak and dagger of something called 'Don Coyote.' Higher ups at the paper insist that the inclusion of anonymous comments and almost simultaneous slashing of the size of letters to the editor was just a coincidence.
And it would also be nice if the paper realized that there were more than two candidates running for mayor of Glens Falls. Nearly every one of the many articles it's done on the campaign has featured either Bud Taylor or Peter McDevitt, both city councilman and both Republicans. One pundit has taken to referring to the paper's coverage as candidate McTaylor. The paper has apparently decided that candidates other than McTaylor don't matter, instead of presenting a balanced look and letting voters decide for themselves.
Each article throws in a token sentence near the end that reads something like, "Democrat Roy Akins, Independent Esmond Lyons and Independent Bill Berg are also running." But that's about the only mention of the three non-Republicans you are likely to see in the paper. Off the top of my head, I recall having seen two articles primarily devoted Akins, one to Lyons and none at all to Berg. Articles on Taylor, McDevitt or their feud usually run once or twice a week.
There's the rub. Lyons (of whom I speak because he's a friend of mine) could start smearing his opponents on a weekly basis, like McDevitt and Taylor are doing, and would probably get a lot more press coverage. He won't do that because he's a man of integrity and wants to run a campaign based on his ideas. The Post-Star, along with most citizens of Glens Falls, claim they want more decency and less nastiness in political campaigns. But this professed desire is belied by who gets the preponderence of press coverage.
You'd think that the paper would jump at the chance to give some ink to all of the candidates. Possibly a majority of electoral races in the paper's readership area are completely unopposed and hardly any have more than two candidates. So it's not like the paper has to devote a ton of space to other contested elections.
I realize that no paper's editorial judgement is going to provoke 100% agreement. But when the Post-Star chooses to run a story on the FRONT PAGE (Aug. 4, 2005) about a bridge in Scotland that dogs like to jump off while ignoring 60% of Glens Falls' mayoral candidates, that doesn't exactly inspire my confidence. Or my respect.
Mahoney won another award for his rivetting first-hand account of a rare murder in Glens Falls that he actually witnessed. His colleague Don Lehman also won for his reporting on the story. THAT is the kind of stuff that deserved an award, not gaudy graphics or overwraught hysteria.