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Cleaning Up The Daily Reflector’s Mess

By Anthony Noel
Contributing Writer

Blackburn

Blackburn

Godley

Godley

Many things contributed to my decision, back in the 1980s, to start my first business. I’d make more money. I’d set my own schedule. I’d be my own boss. That last one was by far the most enticing: I could run things my way.

That sense came to a head one morning, when my soon-to-be-former employer cited an outdated policy in denying critical resources to the department I was charged with directing.

This was standard operating procedure, despite explosive growth which had seen the company triple in size in just five years.

My team and I talked about it on our coffee break (groused, is more like it) and again at lunch. You could taste the frustration. Then, one of the guys reached in his lunchbox and produced a small placard. He passed it around. Smiles of recognition gave way to infectious laughter as each of us read it. In bold letters over a sky-blue background, it read:

“There’s no reason for it. It’s just our policy.”

Ten years later, the newspaper I was then editing had the sad task of reporting the company’s demise, and the jobs that died with it — many of which were still held by some of my former colleagues.

The pitfalls of holding to policies which reality has rendered useless were confirmed again for me this week, as I studied The Daily Reflector’s attempts to clean up the mess its letters policy has created for voters in District 3. As if it’s 1915 rather than a hundred years later, the DR requires letters related to the election be received more than two weeks before Election Day.

——— Analysis ———

It was inevitable, in today’s wired (and wireless) world, that this policy – instituted back when something called “the post office” delivered handwritten missives contained in what were known as “envelopes” – would result in the DR falling prey to people slick enough to leverage it. Sure enough, that’s just what’s happened.

In a nutshell, some supporters of McLean Godley, the D3 challenger to incumbent Marion Blackburn, have claimed Blackburn did not support the establishment of economic development zones in the city. The public record clearly shows this charge is false.

Still, on October 17, the paper published a letter citing Blackburn’s “no” vote on an economic revitalization zone on 10th Street.

In fact, Blackburn supported that zone and five others approved that night. What she opposed was including the Town Common as a seventh. Meeting records show she made a motion to approve the six other zones, keeping the Town Common, a public space where cultural events routinely bring people together, free of the commercial distractions so abundant outside of city parks.

When Blackburn sent the DR a letter providing this crucial context on October 19, it denied publication because its cockamamie deadline for letters had passed two days before — the same day the misleading letter was published.

Troubling as all that may be, what’s worse for the DR is the optics: It appears not to care and seems willing to ignore Godley’s inattention to little things like filing full and accurate campaign finance reports. The Board of Elections confirmed this afternoon – amid reports that Godley has hired a driver and rented a bus, bearing his campaign’s signage, to shuttle students, the disadvantaged, and the elderly to the polls – that the candidate still had not filed the amended report he promised earlier this week, to correct the incomplete one he submitted at Monday’s deadline. (UPDATE, 10/30: Godley submitted his amended report this morning. It can be viewed at the above link.)

To its credit, the DR published a correction about the misinformation in the October 17 letter. But it was so poorly constructed that it required correction itself. Worse still, the paper has doubled down on the debate-dodging Godley, endorsing the 23-year-old for Blackburn’s D3 seat.

The upshot? Greenville’s newspaper of record appears to be more interested in electing a particular candidate than in reporting the facts.

And its old-timey rule that forbids letters to the editor which are not at least 17 days stale come Election Day — even those which set the facts straight?

There’s no reason for it. It’s just their policy.

Anthony Noel, an award-winning journalist and editor, is co-founder of the Greenville Guardian.

Responses (3)

  1. Alberto Blanco says:

    The Policy and Politics of Free Ice Cream

    The single intellectually honest conclusion of Marion’s vote against the creation of Greenville’s Office of Economic Development, in tandem with Calvin Mercer, is that they prioritized short-term and low personal political priorities over Greenville’s long-term highest interests and well being.

    As a fact, Mr. Taft’s et al. transformational downtown project was made feasible by the above initiative which Marion and Calvin opposed: Mr. Taft’s presentation of his project to City Council is on record stating how he wouldn’t have been able to do the project without Greenville’s Economic Development support!

    In pathetic contrast to this factual positive economic development outcome – despite of Marion’s and Calvin’s opposition – on that same city council where Mr. Taft presented his project, you can see Calvin’s and Marion’s attempts to de-fund (i.) the $4 million road improvement initiative “making no excuse for fiscal responsibility,” as well as (ii.) the Tar River Legacy study they flip-flopped to support now, in exchange for free ice-cream.

    It costs 10 times more to rebuild a failed mile of road than to maintain it, but in Calvin’s logic, “fiscal responsibility” made him oppose the $4M road reconstruction, as much as it makes him support the bond package now. In tandem, Marion’s proposal to de-fund the Tar River legacy project costing $50k, was tied up to use that $50k to pay for “free ice-cream!” Just watch them on record!

    Anthony, your role as Marion’s and Calvin’s Guardian is fantastic. It provides an interesting contrast to the DR’s editorial sanity, which reflects the majority of Greenville citizens. I’ll take your answer to the above facts on this blog.

    • Anthony Noel says:

      The piece to which you have submitted your comment, Alberto, refers to a very specific instance through which the city’s newspaper of record allowed an outdated policy to skew the record of a candidate for municipal office. It suggests that this is the exact opposite of a newspaper’s role in our democracy.

      The piece has nothing to do with Greenville’s Office of Economic Development, or with Blackburn’s, Mercer’s, or anyone else’s support (or lack of same) for that office.

      Since its founding four years ago, the Guardian has put every leader in Greenville, regardless of ideology, on notice: If you don’t want to read about your transgressions here, don’t commit transgressions. That goes for Greenville’s media, too. If you think that is somehow wrong, I’d be interested to hear how you rationalize that.

      If you’d like to initiate a well-moderated discussion about the establishment, usefulness, and political implications of Greenville’s Office of Economic Development, we’d love to help. Please consider submitting an Op-Ed expressing your point of view.

  2. Carol Collins says:

    Way to go, my sentiments exactly! I wrote a letter in an earlier campaign citing facts (and their sources) the day after the deadline in order to refute important inaccuracies from a candidate reported in DR. The reply was that I had missed the deadline, so sorry it would not be printed. I replied that I knew that I had missed the deadline, but I thought the DR would appreciate a well-written, researched article that they would need to spend just a few minutes to verify (as I had supplied the sources) and submit to print as one of their own investigative reports. I pointed out how easy I made it for them to provide such a valuable public service via such an easy investigative report. I gave them permission to use the material without attribution to me. Got no reply to that. It is amazing that the DR is willing to be so gamed by those spreading false information.

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