If you ever want a blatant textbook example of one-sided journalism I submit an article written by a reporter with the NOW news group that made it onto the Journal Sentinel website on October 19 that dealt with the Ballpark Commons development in Franklin.
Having been involved in journalism and the news media since May of 1978 I believe that’s enough background to point out horrible reporting when I see/read it.
Here’s a habitual practice on the part of editors and reporters that has been going on for a long, long time. When a decision is made to pursue a certain story they develop a theme, a desired outcome, a template, hell, the actual conclusion even before the reporter leaves the building. He/she is armed with marching orders to seek out individuals who can testify to whatever the agenda might be.
I don’t have first-hand knowledge, but I’d bet a fair amount that reporter Jane Ford-Stewart set out on a clear mission to find folks who were adamantly, vehemently opposed to the Ballpark Commons plan that includes the construction of a minor league baseball stadium in Franklin.
The result is so obviously biased and unfair it should have been embarrassing for Ford-Stewart to allow her name to be used as the byline.
We learn from the headline (written by someone other than the reporter) that people in Greendale are scared to death at the prospect of Ballpark Commons.
Unrelenting noise still in their future, Greendale neighbors of The Rock fear
They’re in fear, ladies and gentlemen. Fear.
Now we move to the critical lead paragraph. A post by Purdue University explores what needs to be done here.
The lead, or opening paragraph, is the most important part of a news story. With so many sources of information – newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and the Internet – audiences simply are not willing to read beyond the first paragraph (and even sentence) of a story unless it grabs their interest. A good lead does just that. It gives readers the most important information in a clear, concise and interesting manner. It also establishes the voice and direction of an article.
And there’s more.
Honesty: A lead is an implicit promise to your readers. You must be able to deliver what you promise in your lead.
So let’s look at that lead paragraph in Ford-Stewart’s article.
Some neighbors of The Rock Sports Complex are afraid that noise, like a vacuum cleaner running for hours inside the house, is the best they can look forward to. The worst is being blown up in a methane explosion brought on by proposed development on the landfill.
They will be blown up when the development explodes. This assertion is published with nary a substantiation that the accusation could even possibly have an iota of truth.
Because no, that wouldn’t fit the template.
I don’t know how Ford-Stewart did it. Maybe she pounded on doors to find the angry opponents. Or maybe she listened to tapes of meetings to determine who was a member of the lanterns and pitchforks crowd.
We do know she found less than a handful of Ballpark Commons haters to go on the record.
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! TEMPLATE HONORED! STORY!
Ford-Stewart did briefly mention safeguards being implemented, but only as a way to tee up those two or three folks she found more than happy to fill her notepad.
Strange isn’t it that Ford-Stewart in her journalistic quest didn’t find or quote a single person IN FAVOR of the project?
As I blogged in September of 2016:
It’s clear. As the deliberations continue about Ballpark Commons opponents will resort to any vicious, arrogant, rude, scare-mongering, and I’ll add false tactics to try to kill this project. Franklin residents, don’t fall for it. Do your diligence and capture the facts, not the fact-free rhetoric.
The rhetoric now includes the theory of “The Attack of the Killer Vacuum Cleaners” and Franklin is the next Hiroshima.
Again, here is the link to the article in question.