County Courier called out for bias

Here in Franklin County, many people rely on the County Courier to provide weekly perspective on regional, and some national, news.

Lately, many readers have been disappointed to find more and more articles gleaned from national right wing sources creeping into the pages of the Courier, generally without vetting or balance, and  occasionally without complete disclosure of the source.

The latest salvo in this partisan information attack came in the form of a new policy by the Courier concerning “Letters to the Editor” in advance of the 2016 elections. Only letters from incumbent legislators  will be allowed unlimited inclusion in the paper.  Anyone else writing about the election, including opposition candidates, will be limited to a single letter of 100 words or less.  That leaves incumbents with plenty of opportunity to attack their opponents and the opponents almost none for setting the record straight.

Of course, since 10 out of the twelve incumbent legislators are Republican, it’s pretty clear which party this policy is designed to favor.

I hope our own readers will consider adding their voices to the protests against this biased policy.  Here at GMD, we are an unashamedly biased source of opinion, as befits a blog; but the Courier claims to be a newspaper and should limit its bias  to clearly identified editorial content.

Here is the Courier’s email contact:   countycourier@gmail.com

And here follows my own letter to the editor:

Years back, I would routinely pick-up a copy of the Courier because I appreciated the depth of its coverage of local news. Those days are long gone, and the Courier has evolved into an organ of right-wing propaganda, reproducing nationally generated material of questionable accuracy and decided bias without appropriate disclaimers.

That transition is now complete with the announcement of the Courier’s new policy on letters concerning the 2016 election campaign. While challenging candidates and their supporters are limited to one letter of 100 words for the duration of the campaign, incumbent candidates  are allowed virtually unlimited access to the forum.

Given that the Franklin County delegation is almost entirely Republican, as of now, the opposition voice is effectively repressed by your policy. This is a disservice to your readers and to County interests in general.

Consider, in contrast, the habits of the St. Albans Messenger, which prints virtually all letters that are minimally civil, no matter what the point of view. The Messenger is fulfilling its vital traditional role as a community forum, choosing only to limit letters in the last week of an election campaign, when the volume threatens to overwhelm other content. At that point, they simply give a cut-off date for new submissions related to the election. No preference is given to incumbents and their supporters.

Please recommit to your obligation toward the public good and restore the integrity of our County Courier.

 

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

3 thoughts on “County Courier called out for bias

  1. Looks like The St. Albans Messenger will now be the happening place for election and political news. And will probably stand out in contrast as the better paper. Yeah, unfortunate but Courier may stupidly be hurting themselves more than readers who maybe don’t want to be spoonfed with ideology.

  2. Here follows the response to my letter, from the Courier:

    “Our intent with the letters policy is to weed out candidates that are using the letters forum to advertise their campaign instead of advertising. We graciously grant space for letters, but when the letters become advisory in nature we have to hold them. We have an advertising department for those who wish to advertise their campaigns in our newspaper.
    As for why we let incumbents write letters responding to issues in the media, it’s just that, they are still in office and still have to answer to the people. When they start ‘advertising’ through their letters we cut them off too.
    For instance, a representative recently wrote a letter to offer up information on finances and how the state was handling them. The letter was informational in nature and did not talk about the candidates campaign or political views. We ran the letter.
    This week we received a letter from a republican incumbent who was talking about his campaign, and how to “improve” the political nature in Montpelier. We rejected the letter and told him that it would need to be a paid ad.
    I know you don’t necessarily agree with this policy, but we can’t afford to have 3 pages of letters to the editor every week that talks about the same political issues that the parties have fought about for years. like it or hate it, that is one of the hard parts about my job, sifting out what is appropriate for the newspaper, not only from a readers’ point of view, but from the economic point of view of the newspaper. The days of newspapers having enough ad revenue to have a staff of 20 reporters and pages upon pages of letters to the editor are gone.
    We will review the letters policy in the coming weeks, but I will tell you that we borrowed this policy from other newspapers who use it throughout the country with great success.
    -Greg

    County Courier
    Franklin County, Vermont
    802-933-4375
    http://www.facebook.com/countycourier

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