August 18, 2008

So let's get this straight ...

A city employee files suit against her bosses, alleges sexual harassment and makes an unsubstantiated attack on the mayor. The JT and WTMJ respond by breathlessly reporting the allegations three times (so far) without any supporting evidence - not even a second source to support the allegations. (WTMJ went so far as to send out its 'I-Team' for a hard-hitting interview with a city resident at the Laurel Clarke Fountain Downtown.)

Some anonymous readers have been leaving comments on the site ripping us for being ex-JT employees. That's fine, but it's not going to stop us from pointing out the profound and recurring lapses in judgment by our local paper. One thing I've learned since leaving 212 Fourth St. is the newspaper is actually hurting Racine.

Listen up JT editors and reporters - what you do matters. You shape opinions, define our community and sell the place we choose to live to outsiders. I know most of you don't care. You show up at 9 and leave at 4, never wandering further than Dunn Brothers to find out what's going on.

Worse, you believe tearing down our little corner of the world will somehow make your business more successful. But it hasn't worked - never has. Newspapers are dying because they don't give a damn about the places they supposedly represent. Trade the JT with the La Crosse Tribune with the Wisconsin State Journal with any mid-sized paper in the country and you'll get the same stories with different names, same cold-hearted cynicism of 'objectivity,' and same boorish servitude to stories a phone call away.

Nobody can break out of the cycle because it's the same grind, day in and day out. Any efforts to make even minor changes are crushed by deadlines, meetings, charts that show declining revenue lines approaching rising expense lines, mandatory HR trainings, the ongoing threat of layoffs and even more meetings.

Somewhere along the way the JT forgot they publish a daily newspaper. It sounds odd, but they're so insulated in their newsroom that they forget people are actually proud to live in this community and work every day to make it better. They also forget (assuming they ever knew) there are people in their stories with families and reputations can be destroyed by a headline. Milwaukee TV stations and wire services pick up the stories and run them assuming the original reports are accurate. It's a poor assumption.

To put it bluntly, the JT doesn't care. It doesn't care about Racine, Racine County, people, organizations or services. It spits out stories to wrap around ads to pay off a corporation's billion-dollar debt and their CEO's million-dollar salary. It doesn't matter if the story is any good (or even appropriate) - it just has to fill space by 5 p.m. so everyone can get home.

It's no way to run a newspaper. Sadly, no one at the JT will realize that until the day they leave.

19 comments:

  1. Are you guys any better? Words like "disgruntled", "alleged", and "unsubstantiated" means you "dis" believe her? Obviously, SOMETHING happened, or nothing would have come out. We'll have to see what the results are then. Honestly, it seems like sometimes you guys just attack the JT to attack it. So who's disgruntled????? I know this won't get published, but I tried!

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  2. Anon-

    It's not about belief or disbelief. There's simply nothing to substantiate the claims. It's one person (and her lawyer's) word reported as fact. If you're going to severely damage someone's reputation, hopefully you have more to go on. Like another victim ... or a second and third source to back up the claims.

    Saying that "something happened" because a story came out is like saying everyone arrested is guilty. If they weren't why were they arrested?

    The JT did a bad, bad job on this story and people are getting hurt in the process. Unfortunately, this is not unusual for our newspaper.

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  3. I can speak from first hand experience.

    I was reluctantly interviewed recently by the JTs business reporter. He tried his darnedest to get me to say disparaging remarks about a specific part of the city. I resisted.

    I was very surprised. I thought they were a promoter of the City. It opened my eyes to the real motivation of the paper and almost all media in general.

    It's all about sales. Period.

    Signed
    Concerned Business Person

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  4. Dustin:

    Sometimes there aren't any people willing to risk their jobs to back up the person making the allegation even though they know she is right.

    Also, why don't you look into how quickly a women becomes a pariah at work and gets shunned because she took the appropriate measures and reported harassment. It's amazing how far people in positions of power will go to make the person making the complaint look like they are "disgruntled" and crazy, or as the Mayor said, "bizarre". It would take less effort to correct inappropriate behavior at work than what these men in power use up to systematically build a case against the complaining employee painting them as "disgruntle" or "bizarre". The problem is their big fat egos and their need for power and control keep them from enforcing FEDERAL laws. It really is rather sick.

    Sandra: You have supporters. Don't think you are alone.

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  5. So, instead of doing the *responsible* thing and not reporting the story at all, until actual facts came out, they published a he said/she said piece?

    Nice.

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  6. Thank you for speaking the truth RacinePost! This woman's claim is just that -- a claim. And the JT has done nothing more than use sex to drive hits to their website. They could have looked into this more, but refuse to do the actually investigative work that it takes to practice good journalism. Her claim could prove to be true and if her attorney is right there should be plenty of evidence and testimony (even off the record) to support it. But the JT doesn't even take the time to do that kind of bare-minimum work.

    As for the other "anonymous" bloggers, READ what is written above. It is a criticism of the JT's coverage; no where do they say that the woman's claim is false. They also did not say that the JT should not have reported this. Stop knee-jerking and actually read what is written. Their point is that the JT SHOULD report this, but that they should have practiced good journalism and looked into it a bit more before regurgitating whatever the attorney sent them.

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  7. Winter Witch8/19/2008 11:01 AM

    Oh we all know that the JT reporting is crap. It has been for some time. Before the Racine Post came online, we only had "one" largely circulated news source.

    I am one of many who think Tingle has the proof, the sources and documentation. Yes, people get hurt but it is because of the actions of members of their household. Albiet, the story was poorly written, lack of any investigative reporting, just plain piss poor reporting but that has become the total norm for the JT.

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  8. The JT reported both sides, anonymous. We heard Tingle's side and the Mayor's side. I am not sure what more there is at this point until it goes to court. Tingle can't or shouldn't talk about it, and the same goes for the Mayor. That's why they hired attorneys.

    About the JT not caring about Racine or the people--that may very well be. But, if you read some of the bloggers comments I wouldn't care about them either. Talk about low class.

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  9. Give the people of Racine some credit. Just because it is printed in the Journal Times, doesn't mean it is taken as gospel. I think the people of Racine make their own decisions.

    The JT has had sloppy, shoddy reporting for years...nothing new. I shake my head every time I pick up that newspaper. Either the reporting is lacking in substance, ethically immoral, extremely biased or the grammar is so unprofessional it is hard to decipher. I usually read my news elsewhere.

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  10. I think Dustin is correct. What the paper writes does make a difference. Tingle's claims, if proven false, is a bell you can't unring. If her claim is true then let it be reported on when all the facts are presented.

    And it isn't "obvious" that anything happened except she was fired. Let the system work and let the rest of us reach conclusions when everything is known.

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  11. Why is it acceptable for Mr. Block to refer to the employee as "disgruntled"? I know enough about the story to know that she was fired after filing her original complaint, not before. She was hardly "disgruntled", the whole situation was handled poorly and now they (the city) are having to back peddle and do damage control.

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  12. In deference to the comments, and since we don't know what actually happened, I took out "disgruntled" from the first paragraph. That wasn't a fair word.

    Also, five of the JT's 23 newsroom employees don't live in Racine County, so it was a mistake to say "most" of the newsroom lives outside of the county.

    Thanks for the comments and feeback!

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  13. I call up the website for this newspaper several times a day. I think it is great although Dustin/Pete have a fairly clear liberal bent.

    I disagree that the JT always tears down Racine. They continue to parrot the "progress" of the school system and advertise any thought of referendums so it is more of an advertizing-based agenda (plus DRC and others support the schools, the schools with faculty and families buy the JT, etc.).

    As for the word "disgruntled" and comment about "most reporters not living in Racine" - and I'm just trying to help here Dustin - you shouldn't treat the news as a living document that can be changed later on a website. It should be correct the first time, not flame and fix.

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  14. Dustin —
    There's been considerable discussion in our household about your column — actually some disagreement. Motivation for your words was basic to our difference of opinion.
    One of us thought it could be sour grapes,; the other believed it was objective opinion and based on your excellent training and insight into what makes a fair and appropriate analysis of hard-hitting, fair or potentially unfair reporting.
    We've conclude from our own discussion that you have the better sense of what is an appropriate news report and what misses in its lack of essential probing through interviews and depth research. Innuendoes against the mayor or anyone else do not make sound reporting. People talk, city workers talk. Pound the pavement, build contacts, build on sources, strike a balance. That's the stuff of an award-worthy writer.
    The TJ sometimes takes the lazy way out. Innocents become victims with a reporter's inertia and incompetence. Objective reporting is not an easy business. It takes time; it takes talent; it takes a special concern toward being more fair than sensational. Without those attributes from the writers covering our Racine, it hurts not only our community but the business of journalism as well.
    And goodness knows, the business of journalism needs help and insights such as yours.

    bjedit

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  15. The Journal Times tries to sensationalize stories to sell papers. The more crime, sex and scandal they print, the more papers they sell and the more hits on their website. They aren't the only news organization that does it. Scandals sell. People love gossip and getting a little dirt on others. But, just because people love it doesn't make it NEWS and NEWS is what I am looking for in my newspaper. I understand they are a business and the newspaper business is suffering substantial losses, but I believe the press should be held to a higher standard than other businesses. People look to them to learn the truth. Newspapers should investigate and uncover stories some would like to keep hidden. If Mayor Becker ignored complaints because of his own affair that fact should be reported, but it should be investigated and substantiated before it is reported.

    People who want to learn about our city will look at our newspaper to judge us. The JT shouldn't pretend crime and corruption don't happen here but they also shouldn't sensationalize it and feed the frenzy. We need to aim higher than the lowest common denominator.

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  16. We are witnessing the death throes of a newspaper. The suits that clog the arteries of Lee Enterprises will not let up until the Journal Times is dead. How can you expect a suit to admit, "I am the problem"? They are completely and utterly without a clue, like drunks waking up in a jail cell the morning after a binge.

    This site is a fine alternative to the news reporting of the JT, and blogging alternatives also exist. The only negative aspect I can think of in regard to the death of the JT is that the city will have to tolerate the idiocy that they publish as they slink to the grave.

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  17. I think what annoys me the most is that beautiful, historic fire station the JT tore down. I knew all along that the building would be lost forever and the JT would be tits up within a few years. What a shame.

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  18. Excuse me The man shot on 9th St? News maybe or are we just think if we do not print it the even never happened?

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  19. I would have to agree with some points Mr. Block is trying to make. Independent media is a good alternative to our main stream new outlets! Recently some of you have noticed our site racinenews.org and followed the attack on us by the Journal Times. This is the type of thing independent media fights! We are not driven by personal political agenda, we tell it like we see it, and we do not have to worry about circulation numbers! The Journal Times is currently the national face of our city. Until they stop focusing the news towards personal political agendas, readers and subscribers will continue to shrink. Independent news is growing bigger every day! With the Racine Post, Racine News and a host of different blog sites your options for news continue to grow every day! Support your Local FREE PRESS!
    Joe
    Racine News

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