Election reporting done wrong. Why our newspaper has failed us in this election.

[Archived from the old WFMD.com]

A note from the author:

The following article is a critique of our local paper. I grew up here in Frederick, and I love this town and this County. I have spent my entire life reading the Frederick News Post, and have gone to it as my source of information election cycle after election cycle. This column is on a radio station’s page and in the past year I have joined, in a large way, the media world, hosting local talk radio, and writing in various news outlets. Because of this, you may read the following article and believe that it is motivated out of competition in the media space. This could not be further from the truth, I have always written my opinion and sought to educate our community. Please do not misinterpret my passion for educating the public with the goal of improving media communication, as me attempting to damage a competitor. If you believe that is my motivation, you are free to stop here. I hope however, that you continue reading and begin holding everyone in the media to a higher standard.


Election reporting done wrong. Why our newspaper has failed us in this election.

It smacks of laziness.

Why investigate or dig deep into the candidates and the issues when they can copy and paste reports directly from the Board of Elections? Gone are the days of chasing a story for days, maybe even weeks, hoping that it will pan out into something worth publishing. The only articles about the issues are simply a re-hashing of hosted forums, and even then, a pale comparison to full investigative coverage. Maybe it’s the reader’s fault – we want everything presented in 120 characters or less. As consumers, we grow bored in mere moments at the presentation of anything real. Why read a researched expose into the merits of local control of our education system when we can just share another meme? I can only hope that the wish for information still exists, and is only being placated by cheap thrills because of the vacuum of quality journalism.


Board of Education candidates are being ranked by campaign funds raised.

This is what we are being told matters about the women and men that will be leading our school system in a mere matter of months. Article after article has been published about the funds raised by each candidate. If I really want to go find out how much money a candidate has on hand, the forms are publicly available and I can seek them out. When did the fundraising capability of a candidate become a deciding factor for a voter? Remind me what someone’s ability to raise $1000 more than another candidate has to do with whether or not they should be representing me on the Board of Education.


County Council Candidates are being ignored.

I understand that there is more pizzazz in the County Executive race. The powerful personalities involved elicit emotional responses from readers. What they are failing to relay to our community is the power that will be wielded by the Council Members. The County Executive’s role is to represent our community and oversee the management of the county. Whoever gets elected will, on day one, hire a new County Administrative Officer (replacing the County Manager), and a large portion of their job will be handled by that person. Yes, the budget will be the responsibility of the Executive – a budget that will have to be voted on and approved by the County Council. The Council is responsible for land use, ethics, economic development, social services, etc. They will be the body responsible for passing laws and creating whatever “change” people desire. Why are they being ignored?


We are obsessed with an inaccurate definition of “fair.”

Journalists are going out of their way to include all sides of the discussion, and all possible opinions, so they can be “fair” to everyone.  The role of a journalist is to separate fact from fiction, to leave their readers/viewers/listeners more educated than before. This does not mean you should include the absurd and the inaccurate ramblings of everyone that wants to be heard. Find out the truth, and report it. Sometimes the truth hurts, but you have done your community a disservice if you choose politeness over fact. This means that you report what candidates say, even if their words demonstrate ignorance.  I give you the most blatant example, a candidate, the mother lode of reporting gone AWOL, Ellen Bartlett. Mrs. Bartlett has publicly admitted she hasn’t read the charter; when speaking about “illegal aliens,” reminded us repeatedly she doesn’t mean little aliens from outer space; when asked what she would cut in the budget, called out the name of a different candidate to ask what her answer should be, and then said she doesn’t know; And answered the question: “What are your two goals for Frederick County?” verbatim as follows:


“Two goals, my major goal is to see Frederick County, stay Frederick County. Not Montgomery County. We don’t want to make the mistakes that they have made in Montgomery County. I feel very strongly.  I am a conservative; you have to understand that I am a Republican, Conservative. And so, I believe that we need to be more like western Maryland. We need to honor the NRA, I don’t see a lot of people applauding that. But we need to be sure, that we have the freedom in Frederick County to be ourselves, and not be gerrymandered, the way our governor O’Malley did, our congressional district, it absolutely wiped out western Maryland. We have absolutely no say in the state, and the congress also, that’s where I stand.”


This has not been reported anywhere. The newspaper has not been honest with their subscribers and reported on any of these moments. I understand that she has a lot of friends, and that people will still vote for her in spite of these quotes.  Moreover, I will be flayed upon the altar of Facebook and Twitter for daring to call out someone’s own words. But, don’t you think voters would be better served if they actually knew what the candidates are doing and saying? I care more that my potential representative shares my beliefs (or might actually know what the job they are applying for is), than if they have the right friends and raise the right money.

– Dave Schmidt