Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Beating a dead horse at The Post-Star

by contributor Mark Wilson

Part of a series on the troubles at The Post-Star and its parent company Lee Enterprises.

Post-Star Editor Ken Tingley is charging into the Valley of Death once again. In the latest effort to rescue up the battered image of daily newspapers, Mr. Tingley’s Sunday column contrasted newspaper reports on unfolding events in the Boston area last week with information posted to social media outlets. Despite abundant evidence to the contrary, he generalized that, “the beauty of print journalism is [that] you get to check and recheck your facts. There is time to evaluate and debate the context of a news story, where it should be played and even which words should be used.”

Even if you discount the obvious embarrassment of the New York Post's two glaring front page falsehoods, Mr. Tingley seems to have already forgotten the mistake made by the Associated Press—the service that the Post-Star relied on heavily for its coverage of the bombing, siege and manhunt—when it erroneously reported the imminent arraignment of both suspects on Wednesday. Had the rumor moved over the wire at press time, it is likely that understaffed newspapers like the Post-Star would have run it. Mr. Tingley also conveniently ignores the fact that his editors, under the Post-Star brand, retweeted the AP’s announcement of the bogus news story, immediately and without independent verification or subsequent retraction.

The real lesson from last week—one evidently lost on Mr. Tingley—is that in news gathering nothing beats an eye-witness account. Sadly, it is a resource that newspapers and their hired wire services are less and less able to afford. Fortunately, if you can tolerate all the derivative nonsense, such accounts may often be found on the internet.

In concluding his Sunday column, Mr. Tingley expressed his hope that “maybe there is a place for a plodding old war horse like the daily newspaper after all.”

It is a fittingly dated metaphor: The last US Army horseback cavalry charge took place seventy one years ago on the Bataan Peninsula, Philippines. Today’s military horses are used for reenactments, parades and funerals.


Brian said...

Ironically, the Post-Star ran a syndicated op-ed piece on this very topic today.

Mark Wilson said...

It seems to me that a large part of Mr. Tingley's problem is that he has completely bought into his own mythmaking. Case in point, his "Front Page" blog post today on prize-winning small town newspapers (a distinct echo of the Post-Star's 2009 P-U-litzer).

In Tingley's mind he's the gruff-but-fair, seeker-of-Truth editor of a small-town independent daily newspaper, fighting to improve his community and uphold the honored standards of the journalism profession. In reality he is little more than the business end of a deeply indebted corporation that is bleeding the community of financial resources (advertising and circulation revenues are streaming out of Glens Falls and NYS to pay off the Lee Enterprises' debt) while returning tissue-weight news coverage to his community.

Mind you, none of the Post-Star's circumstances are Mr. Tingley's fault (blame Lee). Mr. Tingley's main fault is his constant (I would say cynical) spinning of the reality into some rosy, Hoosiers-style fantasy. Not what you look for in a gruff but fair seeker of Truth.

Brian said...

Then we have the Twitter account of the venerable AP get hacked and cause a brief panic on Wall St.


Verona said...
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