The phone rings; the voice on the line asks "sir, did you get your copy of the News and Record this morning"? I receive one of these calls about once a year and my answer has been the same; "no, I haven't received a paper from you in 10 years". The voice asks "why"? My answer; "in the past 30 years I have investigated or participated in investigations that made the front page of one of your sections approximately 50 times and you have yet to get one right". Silence ensues; I have completely discombobulated the sales pitch and the call ends.
I have lived in these parts long enough to remember when the Greensboro Daily News was delivered in the morning and the Greensboro Record was delivered in the afternoon. Most folks preferred one or the other, some took both and both papers had similarities and certain unique nuances; for instance, Ann Landers was in the morning paper and Dear Abby in the afternoon. News accounts were actually reports of fact instead of veiled front page opinions written with a political slant like we have today. Opinions were allowed on both sides of issues, the comics were funny with little or no political statements and the sports section ran articles with reports of Little League games mentioning players names and their feats. Positive stories were common in the Life and Opinion sections with stories of local citizens working together to make a difference in our city. Greensboro was thriving and growing with new businesses locating here and college graduates returning to live and work in the city they grew up in. My how times have changed.
Back in March I wrote an article in support of the appointment of Wayne Scott to Chief of Police. Many of you requested that I contact the News and Record or the Rhino so that more citizens of Greensboro could read that side of the story. Editorial page Editor Allen Johnson agreed to read the article, calling back within minutes to agree to print it. At the time he told me that they needed opinions and articles representing a different view and would welcome more of them. Apparently that is not exactly what he meant. I contacted Mr. Johnson again about publishing my article from May 8th that represented a different view of an incident involving Greensboro Police Officer Travis Cole in which I believed he was being portrayed and treated unfairly and unjustly by the newspaper and the City Manager. He advised he would review my article and get back to me. I have yet to hear from him. Meanwhile, yet another rambling, excuse laden article comparing Greensboro to Baltimore written by a current school board member was given much more word space than usual and was accompanied by a large front page picture of white police officers in riot gear with young, sad looking black male faces. What's with all the Baltimore references? It seems the News and Record almost desires a similiar incident occur here.
So what does the News and Record's term "different view" mean? It means that as long as you are not presenting FACTS that diffuse their reporters' and editors positions and agendas, they will consider publishing it. In three separate editorials by Mr. Johnson he referred to Officer Cole and insinuated that incidents occurring in Ferguson, Baltimore and even North Charleston were somehow comparable. He refers to Officer Cole's incident as if it has been proven that his intentions were clearly "race based" and opines about his belief that the crime committed was insignificant. He celebrates the two day suspension without pay that City Manager Jim Westmoreland pushed for and praises the cowardly apology issued by our incompetent "leader" to the two violators of North Carolina law.
My article contained facts that completely debunked his rhetorical diatribe about race being an issue. When the evidence not only suggests but proves that your opinion is wrong and you continue to ignore that evidence as if it does not exist, your opinion or position becomes an agenda flying in the face of journalistic integrity. Add to this article titles such as "A Cop Dies. Does Anyone Care" and your agenda becomes even more evident. No matter what the article states, this headline is sensationalistic and does not inspire people to read it. In that article you write that you believe the News and Record has "been paying enough attention to that other side of the equation" referring to the police officers side. No, you haven't; not even close.
In your article titled "Cops Deserve Justice, Too" you cannot simply state your position without two qualifying sentences; "There's no question too many black men have died needlessly when police have abused authority". Anyone that loses his life when authority is abused is needless regardless of race. Anyone that loses his life at the hands of law enforcement is a needless death when police do not abuse their authority. Sentence two; "The fact is that not all black men who die at the hands of police are victims of abuse or excessive force". A "factual" statement without innuendo would read most instead of not all, in FACT less than one percent. It seems that Mr. Johnson is either incapable or just refuses to write anything positive about police officers without rehashing negative items regardless of whether he can prove them or not. Again, repeated and unconfirmed negative rhetoric is no longer opinion; it is agenda.
Then there is the Editor of the paper, Jeff Gauger. This past week the department lost a retired captain that was arguably an icon to officers that worked with and for him. He had deep community ties and was respected far beyond the boundaries of the Greensboro Police Department. An article in the News and Record reporting the details of his life and death contained an account of an unsubstantiated and unfounded investigation that occurred over 20 years earlier and in my opinion was political in nature. They could not even pass up the chance to defame an officer even in death; one last shot! Agenda is one thing; this was a despicable act that was intentionally done and was not a mistake. When taken to task by an Assistant Chief of Police over the matter, Mr. Gauger replied through e-mail "it was not our best day". No kidding Jeff. That's all you got? The fact is you're not the least bit repentive. There will be no published apology for this abhorrent lack of journalistic integrity because he's not sorry he printed it at all. Is this the attitude and standard operating procedure of a man and a newspaper that our citizens can trust? Do you enjoy reading agenda laden articles and editorials with no counterpoint? Do you want to receive your news and editorials from writers who routinely ignore facts and promote political positions representative of a small percentage of our population?
I know my answer and I believe I know the answer of most citizens as I have heard many more complaints over the years than compliments. So what are you willing to do about it? Articles such as this one cannot get published in the large circulation of a newspaper and depends on its' readers sharing the site or information; and obviously this one would have to be shared alot to reach that level of circulation. How do you effect change; are your coupons that important in the Sunday paper? Can you live without the comics or the crossword puzzle? Can you depend on the accuracy of the news being reported if the police department decides to stop giving information to the paper? I not only believe they should stop involving the News and Record, I believe they are very close to doing just that.
This paper has for years repeated the mantra that the demographics of the police department should match the demographics of the city. This is an almost impossible task to achieve but the constant bashing of the department by Mr. Johnson, Mr. Gauger and their colleagues is not the best recruiting tool for accomplishing this goal. Are they intent on accomplishment or sabotage? What exactly is the mission of the Greensboro News and Record and what civic value are they?
Print journalism is a dying entity and lack of journalistic integrity displayed by today's media is the reason. The News and Record has a virtual monopoly on news and opinion and how it is presented in Greensboro. Unless they are "forced" to change, they will continue to spew extremist views and report with a slant. The only weapon in the public's arsenal that can affect change is the paper's bottom line. I can and have lived without the Greensboro News and Record for ten years; can you?