The Janesville Gazette‘s Sketchy Reporting on Major Topics

The nearby Janesville Gazette, a newspaper that insists ‘local matters,’ too often reports on Whitewater’s local matters in a careless way, ignoring key information.  Whether that paper’s omissions are through negligence or by design, reporting like this ill-serves Whitewater. (In fairness, the Gazette long ago ran itself into the ground, and sold out this summer to a second-tier advertising network that masquerades as a newspaper chain.)

There’s more than one recent example of the paper’s sketchy work.

A video interview with UW-Whitewater’s new chancellor that’s obviously been edited. (Beleckis, reporter; Schwartz, editor.) See Truth Telling and Tale-Weaving and For UW-Whitewater’s Administration, Talking Points Won’t Be Enough.

One can see edits in the video, and in any event, no one would suppose the chancellor spoke for only 6 minutes and 32 seconds.

The Gazette’s practice is sub-standard: the contemporary, standard practice would be to print stories about the interview, but post the full recording online. The full video would allow readers to measure the quality of the stories against an official’s entire remarks.

Repetition (1, 2) of limited, selectively-presented information about the departure of an employee at the Whitewater School District. See Story on Whitewater’s District Administrator: Omission & Innuendo.

The Gazette’s original story on this departure (Beleckis, reporter; Schwartz, editor) is notably thin. The reporter claims to rely on the results of a public records request and a supposedly “confidential settlement communication” and other documents from the employee’s attorney that had been “shared with the news media.”

Demand letters are not uncommon; they vary widely in style and – more importantly – in the strength of their claims. They mean something, but they represent only a party’s position, not a determination of fact or law.

(There’s more one might say with confidence if one saw the full set of documents – assuming what the paper received is truly comprehensive – but a few slight quotations in a story from a young, non-lawyer reporter are hardly enough on which to rely.)

The contemporary, standard practice would be to publish these documents in full as links to a web-based story. The full documents would allow readers to measure the quality of the claims against the reporting about the employee’s departure.

Omitting basic details from a straightforward story. In a story about the selection of a new school board member, the Gazette (Beleckis, reporter; Schwartz, editor) left out the names of the other applicants and how they fared.  These were four good candidates; three didn’t even get a mention by name from the Gazette, let alone links to their letters of interest. See School Board, 9.16.19: Applicant Interviews and Reporting. (For the letters of interest, see from FW School Board Applicants’ Letters of Interest.)

(It’s also true that the Gazette’s editorials sometimes show a limited proficiency with language, facts, and analysis, but that’s a separate matter from sketchy reporting. See Does Anyone at the Janesville Gazette Have a Dictionary?)

Those of us who grew up in newspaper-loving families know how far this reporting is from good work. One doesn’t have to be a reporter to feel this way; one needs only to read carefully and think clearly.

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3 years ago

so i’m guessing you don’t like the janesville paper using whitewater as a playpen for one of its lost boys. kinda irritating, i’ll admit, but sad, too. at that paper half don’t care/half don’t know.

3 years ago

People are worried that if local newspapers go away there will be a news desert.That’s silly.There is a news desert now.Papers are relying on anyone who walks in the door. Publications are scared to teach them because they might lose someone who doesn’t want to be told how to do something. Oldtimers also doubt that their papers will be around much longer, so why bother? Having someone write anything keeps editors and support staff employed until new ownership turns off the lights. This leaves a lot of not quite ready stories that get published anyhow. That’s a news desert today.

3 years ago

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