Sunday, May 30, 2010

Exclusive: the letter The Post-Star won't* publish! (updated)

(*-At least I think they won't publish it. I'm not entirely sure, for reasons which will become clear after you read this entry)

Last Sunday, Post-Star managing editor Ken Tingley wrote a typically obnoxious column bashing one of his favorite targets: teachers unions.

For context, please first read the column in question here.

I was so infuriated by his column, particularly its tone, that I immediately fired off a letter to the editor.

With the exception of one tangential sentence that was inaccurate and that I subsequently asked be removed, the letter read as follows:

If there were a Pulitzer Prize for hypocrisy, Ken Tingley's column "This us vs. them attitude has to end" would be a sure winner. What's next? Cal Thomas pontificating on religious tolerance? Floyd Landis lecturing on honesty?

Tingley repeatedly insists that he has nothing against teachers per se. Yet his primary qualification for acceptable school board members is their willingness to, as he puts it, "wage war with teachers unions."

How exactly is a school board member supposed "to wage war with teachers unions" while simultaneously "[ending] this us vs. them attitude”?

The winners of Tuesday's polls were the communities. Tingley and his editorial board wanted people to act as taxpayers and nothing else. Perhaps, voters noticed that the Constitution doesn't begin, "We the taxpayers..." They decided to balance their roles as taxpayers, parents and citizens. In most places, they approved the budget. In a few, they defeated it. But in all cases, they rejected Tingley's narrow, consumerist-only definition of what were once called citizenship and parenthood.

Tingley should have a chat with his colleague Will Doolittle. Doolittle has the decency to recognize that when teachers claim they are underpaid for the credentials required of them and that when residents claim they are overtaxed, they are both right.

Doolittle understands what Tingley refuses to see: the problem is not the teachers' union, but the fundamentally broken structure of education funding in New York. Tingley stubbornly insists on taking sides on the sinking ship; Doolittle and other wiser heads want to save the ship.

It's disappointing that someone in such a position of responsibility consistently behaves in such a divisive, irresponsible manner.

The following morning, I received a harsh email from Tingley denouncing me. As a general policy, I do not publish private emails without the consent of the author, but suffice it to say, he denied my claim and angrily accused me of taking his words out of context. I replied that my interpretation was based not only on this particular column but on his broader body of work on the topic and that I stood by my interpretation.

My letter was sharply worded so I have no problem that his email was in the same vein, though it did make a typically patronizing reference.

That day, Tingley even Tweeted what I assume was a comment about my letter: Received a letter to the editor today that made my blood boil. I hate when people twist your words for their own convenience.

(Note: Twitter is public so I have no problem re-posting that comment)

It occurred to me that Tingley's fury might prevent the letter's appearance in the paper so that Monday, I emailed Editorial Page Editor Mark Mahoney (the usual contact person for letters) asking him whether the letter would be published or not. Seven days later, I've received no response.

A few days later, I emailed Tingley back asking him the same question. I have no response.

A few days after that, I emailed Publisher Rick Emanuel but his away message indicated that he was on temporary leave.

After submitting letters, I typically receive a call from a Post-Star staffer confirming that I did indeed submit a letter. I've received no such call for this letter. And I've yet to see it appear in the paper.

Over the years, I've submitted dozens and dozens of letters to the paper. I've never once had a letter rejected or even questioned. But I know other people who've had letters refused and the paper typically gives a specific reason for the rejection.

I don't care how angry Tingley is that somebody called him out, I find it completely unprofessional that he and Mahoney continue refuse to respond to my simple yes/no question. If they want to reject the letter (which was never my intention), it's their business but they should at least have the guts to tell me directly.

Update: What's interesting is that although Tingley claims my letter took his comments out of context, the paper published yesterday a letter expressing the exact same sentiment as mine. If my interpretation was so unreasonable and deceitful as to be unpublishable, why was the other one printed?

Second update: In his managing editor's blog, Tingley bragged about how easy it is to submit letters to the editor.' I left a comment asking why it wasn't so easy to get an answer of whether a submitted letter will actually be published. Not surprisingly, he didn't publish the comment or even respond to it privately.

Third update: Surprisingly, the paper DID decide to publish the letter, with the editor's note claiming I took Tingley's words out of context. Though I never get a response one way or the other from Tingley or Mahoney. Makes you wonder if they read this blog!

Fourth update: Tingley seems to be showing the pique one might expect of an 8 year old denied candy for dinner. He is now apparently and without explanation (a common theme here) refusing to publish my comments on his managing editor's blog, even non-controversial comments like asking what percentage of website users watch the videos reporters now post.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The online header of Tingley's blog post is, "It really is easy submit letters."

To which he could add: "It also easy omit words, not give damn about proofreading."