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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Your Friendly Community Newspaper

The Janesville School Board is in the education business, the Janesville Gazette is not.

The recent episode surrounding a hockey coach should have never been made public and it was unfair to the coach, his family, district residents and even the accuser when the Janesville Gazette first decided to sensationalize a story largely built on unsubstantiated allegations and rumors.

The School Board was within their right to get involved in this for the sake of the community, and the Gazette knowing this, should have thought something was up when they had to make a formal freedom of information request to learn who voted for or against re-instatement. Just this one time would the Gazette trust or respect the board’s decision to keep a lid on the details of what turned out to be a relatively minor story? Not when there are newspapers to sell. The Gazette is not in the education business.
JG Excerpt:
The school board has demonstrated how damaging secrecy can be. State law allows closed meetings on personnel issues.
And for good reason. But who would think that a prying newspaper would continue on digging into the rumor mill deep enough to find what it could not get from the school board – more rumors against a high school coach.
JG Excerpt:
Secrecy can protect reputations. But in this case it can lead to rumors, speculation and delays, certainly much of it was unfair ……
But the rumors, speculation and delays however unfair were credible enough for the editors at the Gazette to splash them on the front of their newspaper. The Gazette doesn’t see their own embarrassment, facts or no facts be damned, they have a newspaper to print, they're professionals.

To add insult to the school board and the coach, the Gazette then feeds the rumor mill with fourteen, no actually fifteen anonymous rants in their Sound Off column on Wednesday, May 30th.

So there you have it. If the school board, city hall, county board or anybody else tries to exclude the Gazette from accessing information, the newspaper will just punish them by publicizing rumors and innuendoes that you failed to substantiate for them anyways, swear the misinformation resulted from your right to withhold information (secrecy), then scold you for protecting the interests you are charged to protect.

I haven’t commented on several local stories including this one simply because their just wasn’t enough factual support, and I'm a blogger. The Gazette in their pursuit for a story once again becomes the “story.”

Just recently, the Gazette editor said the paper in the near future will be concentrating more on local stories. If the hockey coach fiasco is an example of this newly focused localism, it looks like any real news will be left up to me the local bloggers.

But seriously, if the school board learned any lesson from this, they really need to take a long hard look at their relationship with the local media and write up some guidelines to deal with sensitive internal information that others are willing to exploit for the sake of profits. This will be doubly important for the school board and the city administration if Janesville loses the public access channel and left to rely solely on the translations and distortions from the Gazette for news and information. The handwriting is on the wall.


Anonymous said...

Looks like todays editorial is aimed at you.

Lou Kaye said...

No - not this time. I never wrote a word about the coach story until today. The Gazette must have been fielding a ton of complaints over the past week and deservedly so. The entire community needs to take a good long hard look at this newspaper and take a step back - they are not good stewards for the community. But before anyone gets in a huff over that statement, remember I'm not attacking anyone personally and number two - its only my opinion.

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