Gazette Story on Whitewater’s District Administrator: Omission & Innuendo

Yesterday morning, I posted on Whitewater School District administrator Dr. Mark Elworthy’s decision to take a position with the St. Francis School District.  See On Changes at the Whitewater Unified School District.  Last night, the Janesville Gazette published a story on the topic. See Whitewater’s Elworthy named interim superintendent for St. Francis School District.

The Gazette’s story (Beleckis, reporter; Schwartz, editor) is hobbled by omission & innunedo.  First the omission, then the innuendo —

Omission.  The Gazette’s story describes Elworthy as a candidate at two positions before his selection at St. Francis, but anyone following Whitewater carefully would have known that Elworthy was an applicant at three districts beforehand.  This matters because it shows an application process both longer and more extensive than the Gazette reports.

Innuendo.  Immediately following mention of Elworthy’s applications elsewhere, the Gazette story mentions the resignation of the district’s athletic director:

Elworthy came under criticism in recent months related to the departure of the district’s athletic director, Jim Pease, who said he was forced out over a disagreement with Elworthy over funding repairs for the gymnastics team’s floor. Documents show the district denied allegations Pease and his attorney made.

The implication is that the district administrator’s departure relates materially to the athletic director’s resignation.

No, and no again.  Anyone observing the district with discernment knew that Elworthy was a candidate elsewhere long before the departure of that athletic director.  (It’s the Gazette’s own story about the former athletic director, as much as any city discussion, that fomented criticism.)

Funnier still is the reporter’s note that “[f]urther details on Elworthy’s status in Whitewater were not immediately clear late Tuesday night, and an attempt to reach Elworthy was unsuccessful.”

Oh, brother: The Gazette’s reporter was late to this story, as he may have had no idea about developments in this matter, and while chasing a topic he makes it seem that no one could be reached. Those who pay closer attention don’t have to cast aspersions about what’s ‘not immediately clear’ or about ‘unsuccessful’ communication attempts.

It takes less work to slide into town and write a story-teller’s essay about a single topic than it does to follow events closely. See School Board, 9.16.19: Applicant Interviews and Reporting (“After this meeting, a reporter (Beleckis, Jonah) for the Janesville Gazette wrote a brief and low-information story about the meeting. See Whitewater School Board’s newest member says he can be a liaison for Latino community. His newspaper uses the motto ‘Local Matters,’ but Whitewater’s local didn’t matter much to the reporter: he didn’t take the time to list all the applicants’ names, the questions they answered, or even tell which two applicants made it to the final round.”)

Best guess: this is an unmentored reporter, with an editor who thinks readers don’t deserve better.

One doesn’t have to be a reporter or editor to see these deficiencies.

One needs only to be a discerning reader.

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3 years ago

The paper you are criticizing isn’t much of a paper. It’s more like the shell of a newspaper with ads inside. Cities like Whitewater are a news desert. There’s no quality newspaper that covers your city.

Most new reporters get no guidance except to learn deadlines and their submission process. I’d be surprised if all these stories were edited/reviewed/read before publication (except for word count that is drummed into their heads a thousand times).

Impatience to write feature stories is strong with young reporters. They think it’s a higher form of writing. The details of local politics are boring to them. Editors take what they can get and indulge that artistic impulse. In return these editors offer no valuable lessons.

Wisconsin still has solid reporters, but not at places like the Gazette. (By the way, your other post asking if anyone at the Gazette has a dictionary was funny and sad at the same time.)

A Town Squire
3 years ago

People who are interested in newspapers maybe look at the JG. However, there are not many Whitewater people who read it. Its kind of like being interested in dinosaurs. It’s cool and all but they don’t exist anymore.