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What’s A Newspaper’s Responsibility?

June 19th, 2014 · 7 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Council, Media

OIB poster Andy Fardy isn’t bashful about expressing his point of view, be it blowtorching government power or questioning media responsibility. The retired city firefighter often takes a hose to the establishment. In this commentary he expresses frustration about what he says is the Connecticut Post “failing to do its job” as a community watchdog with an emphasis on “feel-good stories.” Of course, if you talk to supporters of Mayor Bill Finch, they’ll tell you there’s not enough emphasis from the Post on feel-good stories. So it goes. Remember the airport land deal that cost the city more than $500K? The Post broke that story. Still, the role a newspaper plays in a community is always an intriguing topic. What say you? From Fardy:

Here is a brief description of the responsibilities of a newspaper. The newspaper has a responsibility to its readers, its shareholders, its employees and its advertisers. However, the operation of a newspaper is a public trust and its overriding responsibility is to the society it serves. The newspaper plays many roles: A watchdog against evil and wrongdoing, an advocate for good works and noble deeds and an opinion leader for its community. The newspaper should paint a representative picture of its diverse communities, to encourage the expression of divergent views and be accessible and accountable to its readers whether rich or poor, weak or powerful, minority or majority

The Connecticut Post is failing to do its job. I was always of the opinion a newspaper’s job was to report events to the citizens of the area they publish and newspapers were an effective tool used to keep elected officials in line and to report to the citizens what is going on in government.

I never thought newspapers were in place to report only feel-good stories but it seems I was wrong. The Connecticut Post seems to have concentrated its reporting on feel-good stories such as what was displayed in the paper yesterday. The paper dispatched a reporter and photographer to cover a plan offered by council person James Holloway. This coverage showed yellow flags that are to be used by pedestrians when crossing the street. These little flags cost the city $1,000. I asked a few council people and none of them remember voting for this expenditure of funds.

When citizens approached the Post seeking coverage on a Tip program where people could contact the police anonymously about any type of crime, the Post said nor did they write anything about the tip program.

In recent times the Post was given information of monetary irregularities that created a giant slush fund from which politicians can spend millions of dollars without accounting to the council for this unauthorized spending. The Post’s investigative reporters were shown how the budget and appropriations committee allowed unfilled positions to be funded along with benefits for two consecutive years; this amounted to $11,000,000 city officials could spend as they saw fit. This information and proof was brought to the Post at a meeting. Nothing was ever printed on ghost positions and the spending of the allotted monies.

Recently the Post obtained records from the city that  showed how the council illegally spent city funds. Fifteen of the council people made charitable donations in the amount of $30,000-plus. The paperwork also shows council people charging shopping bills at Stop&Shop 51 times, the paperwork also shows cable bills were paid with city funds by council members. We showed paperwork that proved our allegations to the Post.

We brought this information and paperwork that proved our allegations to the Post and we were told they would get their own paperwork and were not interested in seeing our paperwork. Well the Post did get their paperwork from the city more than two weeks ago and still not a word written about this abuse and possible crime. I challenge anyone to tell me the last time the Post did an investigative article on city hall.

Without an honest, fair and objective newspaper, a city or town’s residents are left in the dark about things that are going on in their city or town. I suggest the editors of the Post look up the responsibilities of a newspaper.

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7 Comments so far ↓

  • John Marshall Lee

    Andy my friend, I am glad you wrote on this subject. Balance (on a variety of issues) and fairness to different parties may be some of the objectives or principles but maintaining them is much harder.

    In June I have spoken to the City Council as a public speaker on two occasions about City governance check and balance mechanisms. With reporters covering multiple towns, do you think a newsworthy article might touch on such a subject noting differences observed with inputs and outcomes? Or what about the different attitude of the City Council when they must approve Federal HUD CDBG funds in contrast to their apparent lack of care about similar conflicts of interest not causing anyone to cease from voting when it is CT State or local taxpayer money? Met someone at breakfast who complained about another CT POST issue. I heard him out and then asked him if he was a subscriber or just reading a paper at the restaurant. He said it wasn’t worthwhile buying. I suggested his complaint will go unheard. There is some marketing feedback if anyone at the Post cares to pay attention. Time will tell.

  • Steven Auerbach

    That was an excellent editorial. There was a time when the Post only reported the negatives stories so it is good Bridgeport is getting some positive stories. However, the paper does have a moral responsibility to share information. So does Fox news and they don’t. The article was very insightful and thought-provoking. At least our newspapers are not government-owned and controlled propaganda machines.

  • flubadub

    I doubt the CT Post, or any newspaper for that matter, feels they have any obligation other than to make a profit. The power of the press–if you own the press you have the power. Bring back the Bridgeport Light!

  • Mojo

    *** The Post needs to do a better job with public awareness and city government news, good and bad. Follow-up on the political smoke & mirrors the city is so good at when making promises! ***

  • Jennifer Buchanan

    Andy, great points. When I FOIed driveway gate, Brian Lockhart looked over the documents and found Finch actually did know about the transaction. Brian did a follow-up published article and nothing happened in the public realm. It was as if no one cared or pursued the new information. While the Post is not perfect, the citizens do not seem to unite and demand followup once facts are uncovered and brought to light, so we readers and subscribers do have some responsibility to support the good investigative reporting, do we not?

  • Tom White

    A few years ago, the Los Angeles Times did an investigative story suggesting a correlation between diminished news media coverage of government bodies and corruption.
    Many of us can recall a time when the CT Post (and former Bpt Post), Bridgeport News and WICC were important sources of information.
    OIB is often funny and amusing, but only occasionally does it contain information, typically from a handful of posters.
    Why does it appear the CT Post is ignoring serious issues and settling for easy stories initiated by Mayoral media alerts? I suppose they are doing more with less. They have fewer staff writers and they need to fill the pages of newspapers and their web site. The result is more drivel and fewer relevant facts.
    Has the absence of investigative reporting contributed to issues such as conflict of interest on the city council and possible misappropriation of city funds?
    I sense the days of the fourth estate playing the role of watchdog is over, especially in Bridgeport.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Lennie,
    Been a while since you had a “party.” Perhaps, in light of the above comments, you might wish to host an Irish wake for the poor, departed and still beloved “Bridgeport members of the Fourth Estate.” I can secure a low-price casket I am sure courtesy of a local ‘put ‘em down’ company. Perhaps you can invite member organizations from radio, TV and print land to see if there is any life out there. The poster boy for the event might be Alfred E. Neuman with the caption, “What, me worry?”

    If folks show up as survivors of the Fourth Estate, perhaps you can prop them up, suggest all comments are ‘off the record,’ and restrict all visual images to status quo ‘still lifes.’ Time will tell.

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