Writing right and more

The Newspaper business has always had its challenges when it comes to getting the story right, capturing the interest of the community it serves and making enough money to keep that happening every week.

This week, one of our reporters got it on the chin a little in Wellington North – as did the other News outfits that cover that council regularly. Councillor Dan Yake took on the press, expressing disappointment in local Newspapers. When criticism rears its head it’s natural to be a little sensitive, although we realize there is give and take – and the need for a thick skin at times.

The three specific complaints included an attempt at clarity, on the part of our reporter, that compared last year’s actual budget number with this year’s projected budget number, rather than comparing projection numbers year-to-year as suggested by finance chairman Yake. Another publication was chastised from the council table for various typos that amounted to easily correctable items if the person involved phoned the paper and requested a correction.

True News organizations happily consider and print corrections when needed. Interpretations of information can cause some arguments when it comes to determining fact versus perception.

Politicians sometimes speak with the clarity of a nimrod and reporters can have a tough time turning gobbledygook into an article. Acronyms and discussions that take place away from the council table often lead to disjointed statements that are hard to understand. More often than not, words and phrases are chosen by politicians that, in effect, tell “their” version of what is transpiring. Reporters then try and wade through that to figure out what is really taking place, in order to pass that News along to readers in an easy-to-read manner. The spin that is rampant in political and bureaucratic circles is a killer for Newsrooms. Sorting out the spin is further aggravated by Newspaper proprietors attempting to run lean operations and still put out quality work.

We do have some sympathy for politicians who get burned by the media. We believe most elected people are there to do their level best for citizens, so when unwarranted criticism comes down the pike in the interest of generating trouble, it can be quite alarming. Here are a couple of examples, should Yake wish samples of being hard done by elsewhere in Wellington County.

Try a question asked with full assurances of going “off-the-record” to help in understanding a bizarre event – only to have those comments printed word for word the next week. Or, how about an assignment editor instructing a new freelance reporter that a council story is complete only if a dissenting opinion is found, regardless of if that opinion is right off the wall or not. We have also seen Newspapers that get too cozy with councils, turning neighbour disputes into us-and-them propositions. Best of all are the bastions of journalism that choose to endorse candidates, in effect promoting their own people and ideals, rather than trusting readers to make the best choice for themselves.

Press coverage in Wellington North could be a whole lot worse.

Do not try this at home

Late breaking News on Tuesday afternoon had Conservative MP Helen Guergis from Simcoe-Grey apologizing again. This time, her executive assistant was caught penning letters to the editor signed with her maiden name, which were favourable to her boss. That blunder follows on the heels of her husband getting off with a small fine and minuscule charge for drunken driving north of Orangeville and possession of drugs. Guergis also had a meltdown in PEI about being inconvenienced at the airport.

For the record, efforts are made to not get reeled in on this kind of letter writing chicanery. But, should anyone think of trying this to help out a friend in politics, the truth usually comes out in the end.