Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Media deceit, smaller party candidates and good business sense

When challenged about their blacklisting of smaller party/independent candidates, the Post-Star and other corporate outlets usually offer the rationalization that they don't have 'space' or 'resources' to waste on candidates they decree 'no one is interested in'... despite evidence to the contrary.

The lack of resources argument is a common theme. In this blog piece, Post-Star managing editor Ken Tingley began: "I’m often surprised when a reader suggests that we should get one of our investigative reporters on a story," before going on to explain how expensive journalism was. Though readers can rest assured that they will always find resources to do dubious pieces on anything related to the Adirondack Park Agency or green groups.

Still, Tingley's admission is rather startling. If I ran a newspaper, I wouldn't be surprised when readers suggested investigating a story. I'd be flattered.

One reader of this blog emailed me with these comments on the blog piece (posted with his permission): He states that the P-S has eight news reporters and five sports reporters. The staff email directory lists nine news reporters and six sports reporters (not counting stringers). Unless this is his way of announcing another round of staffing cuts, Mr. Tingley should really consider getting someone to check his arithmetic as well as his grammar and spelling.

Incidentally, Mr. Tingley's latest tweet—beside the explanation of how difficult it is to assign investigative pieces—is a comment to the effect that with baseball playoffs coming it will be tough getting to work for the next few weeks. Priorities, Ken.

The Post-Star, like most corporate media outlets, has chosen not to cover any of the five smaller party candidates on the ballot for governor of New York.

(To its credit, the Long Island paper Newsday is co-sponsoring a debate on October 18 involving ALL the gubenatorial candidates.)

Despite its blacklist against candidates it decrees 'not serious,' The Post-Star managed to find precious resources and space to run a story on some guy running a write-in campaign, one who admits to consciously "not taking many positions, hardly any at all."

However, the 'lesser known candidates' on the ballot mentioned in a side graphic to the article (but nowhere else) are on the ballot precisely because they gained thousands of signatures to put them there.

The paper claims not to have space or resources to cover these serious candidates (who take actual positions!) who've done the hard work of generating interest but they find resources and *front page* space to cover this Green Tea guy (to say nothing of all the empty personality politics and polls analysis articles about the major party candidates).

In response to past criticisms of the same nature, Tingley has emailed me to complain, angrily asking me to tell him when his paper has been unfair. In his mind, they give about equal coverage to both the Democratic candidate and the Republican candidate, hence it's fair.

Or to put in a way the former sports editor might understand. In his eyes, an umpire can be biased against the other 28 Major League Baseball teams but as long as he treats the Red Sox the same as the Yankees, then he's 'fair.'

In the corporate media's eyes, fairness means ignoring the overwhelming majority of the candidates or given them only the occasional token mention while running hundreds of empty articles on polls or the personal lives of the major party candidates. Fairness means ignoring smaller party candidates in a nation where the majority of people want more than two parties. All we need now is the self-appointed advocates for the public to report on those that already exist. Who knows? Maybe if newspapers gave their audience what it wanted, it might prevent that audience from shrinking even more.

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