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May 27, 2005

The Old Grey Lady….Part Four

Tom McLaughlin

I used to work for a Congressman in a rural area. Many, many people thought he could do things that he couldn’t.

One ruse we used was getting the children of constituents into one of the military academies worked like this. We would get a list of applicants for the school and know ahead of time which one the academy had accepted.

Then the interview process began with a panel of citizens and a representative of the congressman. We would always select the candidate the school had previously accepted as the winner.

But there was always the idea that the representative had power and the unlucky applicants felt the congressman had tried to do something for them. This worked in many other instances where the people thought he could do something but he actually could not. I call it the perception of power. I think some people believe The Frederick News Post is like that congressman. Subscribers feel the newspaper can make or break a candidate for political office by publishing or not publishing their press releases or other activities.

The newspaper claims not to support any political candidate. This has been their stated editorial policy since their founding. Being the only daily newspaper in the county, they have the ability to select those pieces that reflect favorably or unfavorably towards a particular political party or candidate.

It is no secret that the News Post is openly Republican and they slant news stories in favor of that party. One example, I will use Mayor Jennifer Dougherty of The City of Frederick again. In an article about last year’s Democratic Party annual function it was said that a silent auction was held. The mayor had donated a very nice item which brought a small but substantial bid.

In politics, every legal penny, nickel and dime counts, regardless of the amount. The reporter made a needless comment at the very end of his story that her donated item raised the smallest amount of money in the auction. Was the reporter’s fact true? Yes. Did a random fact from nowhere need to be published? Does he do the same to Republicans? Rumors persist that the reporter is a close friend of the Republican governor. Given the slant of his writing, I believe them true.

Some advertisers think the same way. They feel that if they coddle to the News Post then they will print items favorable to their business and ignore the bad. An example of this is the fact that the paper does not publish a list of food establishments served notices by the health department. These restaurants will continue to advertise in hopes there will be a story at some point highlighting their achievements.

These are the people who have the greatest influence at the News Post. Unfortunately for them, the editors of the feature and 72 Hours sections do not abide by this philosophy. They write quality stories devoid of political and upper management influences. And have kept their jobs.

Whereas some people believe the News Post has mythical powers, the majority of the people of Frederick County are too smart for that ruse. They know the paper is Republican, although some like it that way, thank you very much. They know that when a story is biased in favor of something that the paper supports the mythical good ole boy system. Unfortunately, the News Post will learn the hard way as subscriptions, and more importantly advertisers, drop out in favor of the well-balanced Gazette, this web site and cable television.

There will always be a need for a paper like the News Post in the county. The births, deaths, classifieds, Sunday circulars, legal notices, auctions, feature sections and the 72 Hours will keep circulation to a possible break even figure. But too many people hate the paper and, as this number increases, word gets back to advertisers and they will look for alternative means for their hard earned advertising dollars.

Again, I wish the News Post all the luck and success. And, again, Mr. (Myron) Randall, I will meet you anywhere, anytime and any place to discuss these issues.

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