Thursday, November 11, 2010

A matter of trust: the anti-APA Post-Star plays fast and loose with APA 'facts'

A few weeks ago, Post-Star head honcho Ken Tingley patted himself on the back for how well his paper informed the public. A month or so ago, he did so again by bragging that his 'Newspaper can still make its readers smarter.' (One observer wondered how many issues of The Post-Star he'd have to read to become smarter than non-P-S reader Stephen Hawking.)

Apparently, even Tingley's large ego became so sore from the repeated massaging that he had to take yet another 'brief' two week vacation.

But his claim that reading the Glens Falls daily will make you smarter is accurate if 'smarter' means knowing things that are demonstrably false.

A few days ago, the paper editorialized that Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo ought to make 'reform' of the Adirondack Park Agency one of his priorities. By reform, they mean abolishing it, as they editorialized earlier this year.

In this week's editorial, the paper wrote:

The 11-member APA board is currently comprised of the commissioners of the Department of Environmental Conservation and Economic Development, the state secretary of state, three members of the public from outside the park and five from inside the park - one from each county [emphasis mine]

There's a little problem (aside from the grammatical error in the beginning): there are more than five counties inside the Park.

I left an online comment pointing out that I thought there were between 9 and 11 counties with territory inside the Blue Line (there are actually 12) and I named them.

They didn't change the wording of their editorial. They didn't claim I misinterpreted the phrasing. They didn't even acknowledge my comment pointing out an apparent factual error in any way shape or form.

This error doesn't seem intentional or manipulative. It's not a detail that's central to the editorial's thesis or the paper's general editorial line. It's easy enough to fix. Why they don't correct it raises some questions? Do they not care? Do they feel that, as the self-appointed watchdog, they are unaccountable?

Even though they can't/won't get their basic facts straight, and refuse to correct them when confronted with their error, I'm supposed to give them credibility and take them seriously on this issue?

Have parts of their purportedly objective reporting on the APA been tainted by such sloppiness with (or manipulation of?) the facts?

Some years ago, I asked my mom if she wanted a subscription to TIME magazine. She said she'd never read that magazine again. When asked why, she said that when she was in college in the late 1960s, the weekly did a story about her university. In it, a graphic or photo misidentified one or more buildings on campus. She explained that if they didn't get the facts right that she knew, how could she trust their account of the facts she didn't know.

As part of the declining newspaper industry, The Post-Star would do well to heed this lesson.

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