Monday, March 18, 2013

All in the Family

Our correspondents in Pittsford have sent a lot of information about their village election, and we picked up some pertinent data when fellow blogger Lucy and I attended the candidates' debate last week. Here's what we've learned:

What began as an amusing oddity seems now like a bigger deal.

We've written about the Pittsford Mayor who paved the way for a big development in his town, then at the eleventh hour voted against it, then changed his mind and voted for it, and now says he opposed it all along.

In covering this election, the Democrat and Chronicle has made no mention of Mayor Robert Corby's history of supporting the project over several years, or of his final vote to grant permits that allowed shovels into the ground, from which the Mayor's been backpedaling furiously ever since.

At first it looked like an oversight, but in subsequent D&C stories and in a post by the D&C's Pittsford blogger it's become clear that the newspaper is deliberately suppressing the story and seeking to mislead voters. We've learned why.

When Corby's own party wrote him off, he got the Democratic nomination. For running mates for the Trustee seats, he turned to Lili Lanphear, who herself voted for the controversial development in a Planning and Zoning Board meeting last year.

For the other Trustee slot Corby turned to perennial candidate Stacey Freed. A relentless self-promoter, Freed has run for Pittsford Trustee three times before and lost every time. Always, previously, on slates opposing Mayor Corby or his candidates for trustee. But when opportunism knocks . . .

What the Democrat and Chronicle has covered up in every one of its stories on this election is that candidate Freed writes for the Democrat and Chronicle, specifically, for its Rochester Magazine, whose publisher and editor are the publisher and editor of the D&C.

Oh, and the D&C's Pittsford blogger, Donna De Palma, who posted an open advocacy piece for the eccentric Mayor and his slate? BFF with -- guess who? -- candidate and fellow D&C writer Stacey Freed. No disclosure there, either. Apart from this obvious conflict of interest by its blogger, the D&C's failure to give equal time -- or any time at all -- for the Democrats' opponents is risible even by the shabby standards of the D&C.

It's more than shabby. Suppressing facts unfavorable to the Democratic candidate for Mayor. Concealing the identity of a Democratic candidate as one of its own writers. Denying Republican candidates the same opportunity to tell their story that the paper lavishly confers on the Democratic candidates. Much more than shabby. It's unethical.

The Democrat and Chronicle, its editor Karen Magnuson and publisher Michael Kane, aren't even pretending anymore. Just keeping their advocacy all in the Democratic family. To quote Instapundit, these aren't journalists; they're Democratic operatives with bylines.


Rottenchester said...

Don't waste your breath or exercise your fingers complaining to the editor and publisher. They don't care, and they believe they are absolved of all responsibility by message at the top of the local blogs, "The opinions and information in these blogs are from the bloggers, who are not employees of the Democrat and Chronicle." In fact, I'd wager that they are the only ones who hold the bloggers in lower regard than you and me. For them, blogging is not journalism, bloggers don't represent the D&C, and they have no interest in what's printed there, other than perhaps the statistics on the page views the ads there receive.

Back in the old days, small town newspapers had "correspondents", people who sent in news of their neighborhoods and were paid a small amount of money for their work. Most of that news was stuff like birth announcements, graduations, and the like - uncontroversial and interesting only to the locals. I imagine this is what Gannett envisioned for the D&C when they started up the local bloggers - they would be a source of free content. Obviously that model breaks down when your complete lack of editorial oversight lets in someone with an axe to grind.

But, hey, who cares. They're not employees of the D&C, so Magnusen and Kane's hands are clean.

Anonymous said...

You should send this to Gracia Martore, CEO of Gannett. Show her how the likes of Magnuson and the whole rotten bunch drags down Gannett's reputation.

Anonymous said...

But the D&C surely knows that although bloggers are not employees, yet they still do represent the organization. They tarnish the brand, whether they do it for free or for money.

So keep up the pressure, shame and embarrass them! Don't let them get away with the "they're not employees" line. That they aren't paid simply doubles the shame - they are both exploited and embarrassing, rather than just embarrassing!

Anonymous said...

What's amazing is how this paper gets smaller and smaller every day and people keep paying for it. I have a good laugh with a co worker who keeps buying the paper daily at how small it is or how much is copied from USA today but, he keeps buying.

Anonymous said...

For the record, as a blogger on Pittsford, I am totally independent of Gannett's management. They do not edit blogs or assign topics. I write what about what's happening in Pittsford--and a controversial development project in Pittsford was the main topic of the recent election.

Mayor Bob Corby has been a fantastic mayor for Pittsford based upon his record, so I gave him a forum in the blog to clarify his position on the Monroe Avenue Development Project. My idea, not the paper's.

For the record, we have complete freedom as bloggers.

You're fabricating connections that don't exist.

We need more than one paper in Rochester, I agree, but get your facts straight before accusing people of being pawns in some grand conspiracy of the press, when they're simply covering events.

Donna De Palma
Pittsford blogger for Gannett