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December 2, 2014

Trouble in the Fourth Estate

Harry M. Covert

The business of hateful journalism is alive and well. Unfortunately such opinionating has reached the unbelievable, the far-fetched and is beyond good taste.


Generally, news pages are to be absent of opinions. Editorial, commentary and Op-Ed pages are supposed to reflect opinions, normally and properly that of the editors and publishers and observations of readers and/or paid subscribers.


“Second coming” headlines, 96-point and above, most everywhere are reserved for catastrophic events such as 9/11, a presidential assassination, war time events, or, one of my favorites, when The New York Daily News front page blared “BASTARDS” after the attack on the USS Cole.


There are others readers can remember. I don’t like criticizing newspapers, but Frederick’s daily has surpassed reasonable editorial reflection in a big way.


I do hope rumors that the Frederick News-Post was either going to be sold or is facing bankruptcy are incorrect. Such tales have been circulating and this is not a joke or wishful thinking.


Perhaps Sunday’s “second coming” headline, “OUTRAGEOUS” is a tip that the paper must attempt to panic citizens in a contemptible effort to find new readers and advertisers and to remain viable.


The commentary concentrated on a page filled with hateful comments by locals at the outgoing Board of Commissioners filling a vacancy on the Planning and Zoning Commission with its Board President Blaine Young. It was perfectly within the authority of the commissioners to take this action. As everyone knows, Mr. Young lost the recent bitter campaign for the new county executive post. The new executive and county council were sworn in yesterday.


Editorial pages express views of newspaper editors. That’s their right. The local daily is not a tabloid publication. Heaven forbid. Supposedly the paper is a family paper. Advocacy journalism is one thing and news gathering another.


There is an old saying that says the pen is mightier than the sword. A national weekly newsmagazine referred in its front page to a former president as a wimp. It was shameful then and is shameful today for the massive smear on Blaine Young and the former commissioners.


Politics has all sorts of angles. Honorable discussion and disagreements should headline local life. Not for a moment is Frederick County on the brink of disaster. The continuing onslaught against Mr. Young is uncalled for. He has cooperated for years with the News Post, always available for interviews and has advertised in the publication regularly.


To continue allowing readers to use mean-spirited and odious comments is not proper. Freedom of speech is a right and is practiced but, let us point out here, voters spoke out in November and changes are coming. The election is over. Period.


The local paper was not designed to run the political affairs of the various environs in Frederick. Yes, the press is called the Fourth Estate. This supposedly gives a special “standing” for reporters, editorial writers, muckrakers and columnists.


Politicians are good fodder for reporters, as are athletes, preachers, educators, actors and actresses, book authors and all the criminals running amok keeping sheriffs, police and judges busy


Actually it is disappointing the local broadsheet has failed the community, readers and subscribers. The outrageousness reflects on the paper. “Second coming” type surely attracts attention. When that event truly happens, the headline will probably be 96 or 120 point type, instead of outrageous and may read “We’re Gone” or “Breaking News Y’All.”


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