Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Bad local journalism

I don't pay as much attention to the local paper as I once did, but when I do take the trouble to read it, it serves as a reminder on how pathetically inept and amateurish it can be.

In today's example we have a "scene setter" for the big vote today.

Here's the first four grafs:

Candidates running for local offices spent the last hours before Election Day putting out signs, campaigning and encouraging everyone to get out and vote.

The message might be getting through. Turnout for early voting this year was significantly ahead of the last non-presidential election in 2002.

By the time early voting wrapped up at 7 p.m. Friday, 24,726 voters had cast early ballots, compared to the 17,986 early voters in 2002, according to the County Clerk’s elections division.

Joe King, Republican candidate for county judge, said he was happy about the increase in early voters, Henry Bonilla is expected to return to Washington.

The "lede" is standard fare. And boring. But you have to expect that sometimes. But look at the 4th graf. What the hell is Henry Bonilla doing there? He's a candidate in South Texas, not Brazoria County. The lede spoke of "local candidates." Plus, the 4th sentence is ungrammatical.

Let's move on to the 5th graf:

Chet Edwards, a Democrat holding on in increasingly Republican East Texas, was expected to win over newcomer Van Taylor. Republican incumbents John Carter in the 31st District, which includes Killeen and Temple, and Ron Paul, whose 14th District encompasses Galveston, most of Brazoria County and the northern Gulf Coast, had to fight harder than they expected against their Democratic opponents, Mary Beth Harrell — whose two sons have served in Iraq — and cattleman Shane Sklar.

What's wrong? Chet Edwards' district is not in East Texas. It's in Central Texas, stretching from the southern suburbs of Fort Worth down south past Waco.

John Carter is a congressman whose district also is in Central Texas. Then they throw in the incumbent congressman from our district, almost like an after thought. The whole graf is convoluted. Is Carter running against Harrell or Sklar?

Here's the 2nd sentence in the next graf:
But even a Democratic gain of one seat in Texas could be costly to Republicans nationally, which is why the fight in DeLay’s old district has been costly and bitter.

Delay? Traditionally, you include a person's first name upon first reference in a news story. It's "Tom." Mr. Delay's district isn't his "old" district; it's his former district. (That's a little picky on my part, but true nonetheless.)

After some more background on the 22nd District race, the story jumps back to Chet Edwards and Henry Bonilla. For no apparent reason. And there's nothing else about the local congressional race. Or the races for the local county commissioners court, judgeships, etc. And the one true local candidate they include in the story (other than US Rep. Ron Paul) has nothing else to say after the story's 4th graf noted he was happy with the early voting turnout.

In short, this is a story unfit for a junior high school newspaper.

How does this happen?

For any number of reasons, but the bottom line is this: someone's asleep at the wheel down at the Clute paper. The reporter, the editors, the publisher. All of 'em. They all oughta be fired.

The thing of it is, I doubt no one will call or write them about it and demand some answers. And since they won't hear any complaints, they won't really take to heart how bad they are, at least with this particular story, which most people would say is rather important, since it's about an allegedly all-important mid-term election.

I wonder if Southern Newspapers, which owns the Clute paper, even bothers to read how bad their product really is today. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Banjo, Banjo....why waste your time? Anyone can "tear apart" a smalltown outfit like the Facts. Its staff is minor league, and so it will make errors of fact and grammar. I suspect you could do this daily with this newspaper, although it is obvious that (1) it is not the NY Times, and (2) it knows its audience, namely uneducated, drunken Rednecks who aren't hard to please.

cacafuego said...

As bnad as it is, it reads like a Pulitzer worthy story when compared to the 1960 Sun.

Banjo Jones said...

anonymous: why waste your time telling me i'm wasting my time? that's a waste of your time. and my time is "my time." the whole point is if the people don't ask for better, they'll never get it. so nothing ever changes so far as the only daily newspaper published in Brazoria County is concerned. working for improvement in my own small way is not something i consider a waste of time. now quit wasting your time telling me i'm wasting my time.

Anonymous said...

Dang, sounds like Banjo is trying to make some new friends at the Facts.

The Tom DeLay quote is actually kinda tricky for a rinky dink operation because technically the 22nd is still Delay's district unless he moved out of it. DeLay just doesn't represent it any longer. (Could I have used an emdash before that last sentence instead of a period?)

Mo' betta: "...in the 22nd district, formerly represented by Tom Delay."

Perhaps the editors at the erstwhile Brazosport Facts are going for a folsky, down-home tone and don't want to confuse what's left of their readership with a six letter word when a three letter word will suffice.

I'm like Banjo, I don't read the Facts no more cuz they suk!


JD Allen said...

They coulda hired me, but they blew it. So, they blow.

(I admit, things like that in my cover letter may have taken points off my employability quotient.)

Anonymous said...

Obviously you must be smart enough to realize that this article is 2 stories meshed into 1. I recognized one as an AP story about the election. Surely a computing error should not garner this much attention and your bile filled malcontent. If you thought you could do better, why aren't you applying with Southern Newspapers for a copy desk, editing, or managerial position? Obviously you feel you have the qualifications for it. Back it up. No one is perfect. Not you and certainly not the people at The Facts.

Banjo Jones said...

computing error?

i point the errors out only in a likely unsuccessful attempt to shame the local paper into improving. they do charge 50 cents a copy for their product, ya know.