Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Department of Corrections

Were the world a perfect place, there would be no need for editors. News content would flow freely from the fingertips of reporters with the ease a fluidity of the morning rain and corrections boxes would be a thing of the past.

More importantly, the oft-incorrect Saratogian would open up a plethora of space in their paper, now devoted to righting the wrongs that happen to slip past their editors on a semi-regular basis. Take Sunday’s paper for instance. Prominently featured inside was a nearly 300-word “correction” refuting the information reported in an article entitled “Breaking Their Ties.”

For those who missed the story, it basically accused church leaders of running an almost cult-like organization in the village. New Covenant operates businesses, has a strict dress code for its women, orders its members to abstain from medication and all but dictates the day-to-day lives of their members, among many things alleged in the article.

The main source used in the article was an estranged member, who accused her former congregates of trying to lure her children away. She said the meddling was bad enough that she eventually sought and won a court order barring church leaders from associating with her children. Surprisingly, church Pastor Tom Bowden didn’t offer a substantive rebuttal to the comments made by a former member of the flock.

Though unclear from the ensuing correction, it seemed quite obvious in the reporter didn’t level some of Ketchum’s rapier-pointed allegations against the church in his interview with the pastor. In fact, the pastor’s comments throughout the article seemed oddly milquetoast for a religious leader being all but characterized as the next Jim Jones in the weighted report. And from even a cursory read, even an untrained eye could readily identify the side was better represented in the story.

But even if the article was a brick house built on a match-stick foundation, the story was both a thought provoking and compelling read, perhaps giving a clue as to some of the bizarre religious sects that are sprouting up like crab grass in the spring. For instance, the notion that religious leaders are running several visible businesses –including a deli on the main drag –poses some interesting questions about the church’s practices. Are the businesses tax-exempt? Do they only employ members of the church? Where does the line between running a church and operating a commercial enterprise blur?

Yet the editors at the Saratogian clearly didn’t find it fit to answer these questions. Nor did they bother to ask why that the pastor had only addressed the main premise of the story in a roundabout way, which never really tackled the most severe charges levied against his church. They simply moved the article along, into print and onto the front page.

So the church’s rebuttal didn’t come as a shock. One would expect as much even if all Ketchum said about New Covenant was true. The level of rebuttal is what is bizarre and yet another example why the editorial leadership of the Saratogian should be sent packing once and for all.

See, if the editors sign off on an article, they are in essence giving their endorsement of the piece. The onus is on them to sift through it with a fine-eye and note any areas that should be strengthened or retooled. Once the article appears under the masthead, the article becomes a piece of the puzzle representing the entire newspaper’s credibility. For the Saratogian to outright admonish something they endorsed just seven days earlier speaks volumes for how much they support their own content.

More striking is the fact that the Saratogian pulled all online references to the article following the article-sized correction. The story was deleted from both the Saratogian’s Web-based archives and from regional archives. Even cached images of the story no longer exist on the Internet, meaning the paper was likely threatened with a rather nasty libel suit if they didn’t move swiftly to remove any traces of the story.

8 Comments:

Blogger Ben Arnold said...

Congratulations, the first news in recent memory that included "cult" and not "Keehn". The pastor or whoever must have been pretty pissed...I think the correction was not only prominent but a large portion of the front page. Actually, I'm told printing corrections is the new strategy to improve circulation. So they've cut back on staff and are issuing double rations of rum to increase factual errors and numb inquisitive impulses. Dont believe me? Check the staff photos inside the paper...gaps....large gaps.

7:46 PM  
Blogger shotinthedark said...

Okay, let me see if I can get the ball rolling here for you.
It is an accepted fact for accurate information regarding city matters one should read the Schenectady Gazette. Its information is also generally available 2 to 3 days prior than that of the Saratogain.
These following tidbits of information are for the benefit of citizens who have recently moved here; let’s say within the last ten years or so.
The Saratogain has always treated its employees, advertisers, and readers with contempt. The only thing they are interested in is the almighty dollar and it certainly shows. Most of its products and services are substandard. I can truly attest to this fact because at one time or another I have been an employee, an advertiser, and a reader. None of these experiences has been pleasant. They could care less about this city or its inhabitants.
They will generally hire inexperienced and poor people and will generally manage to keep them that way, no matter how long they work for the paper.
If you have ever had the unpleasant experience of advertising with them
you would soon discover they are very expensive and their 50 year old billing system is basically indecipherable and overcharges are routine.
The content of newspaper speaks for itself.
It has long been understood that the only real value of the paper is the paper itself. (For starting fires)
Lately, because of modern technology, I have become more optimistic about the future of the Saratogain; they will either improve or go out of business.

8:04 PM  
Blogger devtob said...

That is the most shameful correction I've ever seen.

The headline, at least online, is nothing that a real newspaper would EVER print -- "New Covenant Church corrects article."

Real newspapers correct their own mistakes forthrightly, under a "Corrections" headline.

No one has ever seen a headline like, for example, "Bush corrects article" over a correction because such a disgraceful thing has NEVER HAPPENED in a real newspaper.

Lousy newspapers like The Saratogian write headlines, and "corrections," as if they were dictated by their libel lawyers.

Which they surely were, in this instance.

The essence of the correction is that the alleged cult leader allegedly did not get a chance to deny the cult allegations.

Of course, it is now impossible to know whether The Saratogian's very-low-paid reporter got both sides of the story, since the original story has disappeared, at least online.

Another aspect of the paper's incredibly lousy website.

The Saratogian will soon be for sale, since its worst-newspaper-company-ever parent Journal Register Co. is in deservedly dire financial straits.

Hopefully, some local types will buy the paper and make it better. It really could not be worse.

This is so outrageous, I'm sending it to Romenesko.

And commenting here.

7:20 PM  
Blogger shotinthedark said...

I think McTygue has finaly pissed off the Saratogain by trying to reclaim the parking lot that the city gave them for next to free (25K). News articles are written to favor Dumb as a Box of Rocks Sirrocco. I know that I mailed a letter supporting Tom and it hasn't appeared yet. We'll see.

11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DEM ROC said
hey shot myself in the foot.

it's funny that the dumb guy down at the county was the one who got us the money for the parking deck, saftey net refund, part of the admissions money from the track etc. our current supervisors have made the trip to ballston spa and come back empty handed time and time again.
and who's intelligence are you comparing him to, tommy's. where's his ged/hs diploma? it takes a genius to cut the wings off of ducks, and then declare, "i'll go to jail before i pay a $ 1,000 fine." and of course by i he meant, the city, and the fine was actually increased to $4,000.
and speaking of corrections and letters, i hope they have more facts in them then the brophy and klotz letters the saratogian printed. brophy, said, skip was no friend to the tax payers because he voted against the vlt's, even though the very reason he did that was it provided no money for the host town of saratoga. i guess someone has missed all the begging we had to do down in albany to get that money. not to mention it just sucks money out of the city.
our friend klotz, (the one that lead the charge to opt out of the county sales tax formula, and now all the towns in the county thank him and mctygue for giving them millions of dollars over the last few years ), called him environmentally unfriendly because of the county landfill, eventhough he wasn't down at the county for that one.
oh and remiga falsely claimed skip made $50,000 when it was $41,000, after a 30 year career. i wonder if she thought he was doing a horrible job when he pulled the rabid racoon fom her house all those years back.

7:25 PM  
Blogger shotinthedark said...

Tom has been in the public eye his whole freakn life. Is this all you can come up with?
For christ sakes, DEC and Encon will fine you for pissing on the side of the road.
Why do you think Tom keeps getting elected? Because supposedly he's a thief. People aren't stupid. They keep electing him because he gets THINGS DONE -- HE PRODUCES.
How long was Skippy in office before they kicked his ass out?
Why do you think they got rid of him?
BECAUSE HE IS DUMB AS A BOX OF FREAKN ROCKS, ASSWIPE.

10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Saratogian news side is a disgrace.

Lombardo has driven off anyone with talent (even though the king of the press realease story has moved on to the the "greener" pastures in town) and the future looks bleak as long as she sticks around.

At least she is lucky that her only compeition left in town (The Saratoga Today) may be the only way to step down from her product.

This is a nearly uncomprehendible breach of newspaper ethics.

8:12 AM  
Blogger Elise said...

Take it from a former member who spent 20 yrs there- it is a cult and powerful enough to have lawyers pressure the paper to pull the article! Does that make you think? And when it comes to Jim Jones- I always have said the cool-aid was a quicker way to kill us- the leaders of NCC just stole our lives! And then called it God. People should be having a loud outcry about this "church"- it controls lives and has left many destroyed lives behind.
Former member.

11:04 PM  

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