I tweeted this weekend that I had learned the cost of the September 13th special election in White County & asked if the local paper would be willing to issue a retraction for the ‘hit-piece’ they ran two days before early voting that tried to portray me as a liar and fabricate a controversy. Well, I’m still waiting on that retraction, but they did take the bait & go ahead and run a story in tomorrow’s paper that will report the cost of the election as roughly $21,000. If you are able to login and read the article on their website, you will see they are pretty interested in trying to discredit the election coordinator. I guess they are trying to save face?
The original ‘controversial’ story misquoted myself & the county election coordinator, attempting to portray us as opponents. The story tried to make it appear that the coordinator was attacking myself & my group, calling into question our estimates for the cost of the special election. This was simply not the case.
The paper said the coordinator projected that the election “should cost less than $15,000, adding that she said she thinks the amount will be closer to $8,000.” So they in turn made a big deal out of my use of a $40,000 estimate that I received from different county officials & printed on our literature.
For the record, once and for all, as I told the editor that day: the $40,000 number came from two county officials whom I trust. I have no intentions of releasing their names–that is really immaterial to this discussion anyway. In public comments, I was careful to say that our $40,000 figure was an estimate. I usually gave a cost range, such as $20,000 to $40,000. In fact, in an August 24th post here on this site, I used the $15,000 estimate. These were all estimates.
I understand that the paper/tax proponents clearly liked the lower estimates. They wanted to 1. discredit me and 2. show people that the county government wasn’t wasting that much of their money, just a little bit.
The story also tried to highlight fact that I would not tell the editor specifically where my information came from, I guess trying to cast more doubt on the credibility of my information & consequently my organization. I told him I would not attach names to information that was given to me in private without first asking those officials’ permission.
The moral of this story is two-fold.
First, the paper needs to learn the difference between an estimate and a quote. If you have ever worked in the service industry, you may have seen this confusion into play there as well. A lot of customers do not understand the difference. An estimate is a projection, an educated guess, not a definitive number. A quote is a guaranteed price, a definitive cost for specific services that is given to a potential customer. These figures–$20,000, $15,000, $40,000–were all estimates.
And as I told the editor during that interview–which he neglected to report–no one, not even the election coordinator who was running, knew what the exact cost would be. You’ll see this reflected in tomorrow’s paper article: ”…those costs were merely estimates, as she did not have any way to predict the exact cost of the election.” During our conversation, I challenged the editor to call the election coordinator, the judge, the JPs, and ask them what the exact cost would be. I knew he was going to make a big deal out of the $40,000 and I wanted to emphasize to him that it was an estimate, and no one knew the exact cost. I suspect those calls were not made.
The second moral of this story: the local paper is more interested in creating controversy than reporting the truth.
Rather than reporting on the ethics violations of the ghost committee, the ethics complaint filed against the county judge, or the promotion of the tax proposal with taxpayer money, they instead tried to manufacture a controversy over a difference in estimates.
If you’re like me, you’re reading this post and thinking, “this is so stupid.” It is honestly an insult to the intellectual integrity of this blog that I have to write a story like this to clarify reality for the paper, but that is apparently where we stand. Their story on September 4th was a distortion of the truth, void of any semblance of journalistic integrity. They ran the story two days before the start of early voting in a clear attempt to portray me as a liar and influence the outcome of the election.
If this was the first such occurrence, I would obviously be more understanding. But this has been a pattern for the last several years and it does not seem to be improving. I know the paper has long controlled the news & political debate in White County. Those days are over. If they want to return to relevance, they should consider a return to real reporting & journalistic ethics.
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