|By G. Michael Dobbs|
Here is the problem: journalism's role in a democracy is to provide information about candidates and issues, but what if that doesn't happen as much as it should?
We run a tight ship here. I have a small staff, which works very hard and as a rule we try to provide readers with information they can use to make a decision in an election.
Let me tell you about my experience last week. I went to two communities to cover results of mayoral races Chicopee and Springfield. I couldn't physically make it to Holyoke my apologies and I had no budget for a freelancer.
All journalists these days work under unfortunate budgetary restraints. I understand that reality better than anyone.
But I was amazed that I was the only print reporter to turn up at the Brooks and Bissonnette events in Chicopee. I was the only reporter at the Brooks campaign wrap-up and saw only television crews from TV22 and CBS3 at the Bissonnette party.
I'm old fashioned. I think it's necessary to cover both candidates. Shane Brooks may not have run a winning campaign, but he is a sincere guy who deserves respect.
As does Springfield City Councilor Bud Williams I was the only print guy to turn up at his headquarters for his statement. The folks from CBS3 were there as well. That was it.
It didn't matter if Williams was the loser. He and his supporters should get this sign of respect.
Before the election I tried to cover as much of it as I could. With a weekly schedule, you have limitations, but I think this group of newspapers treated all of the candidates fairly. Could I have done more with the various city council races? Yes, I'm the first to admit that. But my wife insists that I actually have a home life and sleep every now and then.
Overall, though, I can't help but wonder if much of the press fell short in covering these important races. There were lively elections in Agawam, Westfield, West Springfield, Chicopee, Holyoke and Springfield. There was a very important ballot issue in Springfield. Were the voters served well by the area media?
I spoke with candidates who said they couldn't get coverage. I turned up at events where I was surprised I was the only print guy.
Here's a little challenge: count up the column inches and the broadcast minutes devoted to the Hot Dog Guy story and then compare that to the coverage of the Springfield City Council preliminary election. I bet the Hot Dog Guy wins.
Okay, remember a few years ago when a funeral home wanted to come to Longmeadow and was refused the various permits after there was public outcry? A funeral home is a legitimate and needed business in a community and I could never figure out why people thought it was distasteful.
So can someone explain to me how Chinese Massage at 809 Maple St. was allowed by town officials to exist? The owner of that business is being charged with allowing the business to be used for prostitution and for operating an unlicensed massage facility.
I don't understand how this business slipped by the critical eyes of town officials and others. Perhaps the funeral home people should try again.
On Nov. 11, I will note my 10th anniversary at Reminder Publications. Now 10 years here isn't as impressive as the 40-plus my friend Ray Hershel has at ABC40 or some of my colleagues at The Republican who've been there for 20 years or more.
Staying anywhere these days for a decade is unusual for many professions and I hope unless Chris and Dan Buendo have other plans for me to stay here a while longer. I can hear the groans of my staff now.
I do sincerely thank the Buendo brothers for keeping me gainfully employed for the past decade and the readers who have generally approved of what I've done. I've had the extreme pleasure of meeting and covering many good people as well as working with the professionals at Reminder Publications whom I respect.
This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments online to email@example.com or to 280 N. Main St.,East Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.
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