PEPto Bismol

It wasn't hard to figure out who was the mastermind behind the new weekly news magazine in Hendersonville. The first issue failed to carry the name of the publisher but a quick look at the advertisers revealed that almost everyone of them was a card carrying member of Partners for Economic Progress. The Hendersonville Tribune is the perfect example of what happens when too much money collides with a wounded ego. Partners for Economic Progress or PEP as they like to be called are a group of disgruntled business owners who departed the more moderate Chamber of Commerce several years ago to embark on a mission that seems closer to "Leave no tree behind" than Partners for Economic Progress. Greenways, sign ordinances, clean air and buffers were just too radical for their tastes. Hopefully they will one day come to the knowledge that good stewardship of our earthly home and profitability are not mutually exclusive.

Admittedly I've heard for years, " What this town needs is another good newspaper." The trimmed columns and push for profits by the syndicated papers have made it difficult for wordsmith's to smith and the public to know. A new book by two distinguished Washington Post editors, Leonard Downie Jr. and Robert G. Kaiser, The News About the News: American Journalism in Peril documents the many problems facing writers and readers. They write, "In an information age, when good journalism should be flourishing everywhere, it isn't." Even our own well crafted Times-News sometimes bears a closer resemblance to USAToday than a NY Times publication. While I am sympathetic to new print ventures that advance First Amendment opportunities, I don't think a tabloid with headlines such as "Were blacks better off under apartheid?" or "Taxpayers fork out $50,000 for tatoo removal program" was what most people had in mind for that second newspaper.

I am not saying that the Hendersonville Tribune can't rise to better things, but it has gotten off to a rocky start with articles that give it a decidedly white sheet look. After three weeks of thumbing through page after page and finding little except the viewpoints of PEP I decided that the Tribune fell short of a community newspaper. Their half of the community was there but where was the other half?

It takes a good editor to keep a newspaper see-sawing smoothly. An experienced editor doesn't allow any one person or group to dominate the discussion thereby leaving everyone else stranded high and dry. Remember that big guy on the playground who always wanted to share the teeter totter just so he could leave you up there clutching for dear life and praying for a slow return to mother earth? That, in effect, is exactly what the Tribune is doing. Yes, I agree that a good paper encourages controversy to shake complacency (and lackluster sales) but it doesn't support bullying or rudeness.

Which brings us to Don Ward. A friend called about a week ago to ask if I had seen the column that Don Ward had written for the Tribune. They were aghast that the Tribune would print such a coarse and vicious column. It is understandable that Mr. Ward, running for re-election for County Commissioner, was unhappy with the editorial tongue lashing he received from Times-New's editor Bill Moss. In the February 27th Times-News Editorial, "Age-old question: Why fib?" Bill Moss took baseball devotee Don Ward to task for failing to give his correct age in order to qualify for the Recreation Department's senior league. Moss then took advantage to list Commissioner Ward's other past "sins of omission" including his colorful description of the City's Water Department personnel he had run afoul of as "one of those horse's butts."

Here was clearly an opportunity for Don Ward to show a superior sense of good sportsmanship. Real friends would have helped him use this opportunity to help craft a "set the record straight" reply that would have enhanced his reputation. Instead, the Tribune, obviously adrift without an editor, printed a reprehensible gush of wounded ego that attacked the messenger and neglected the message. "With hatred commensurate with any Goebbels had dealt the Jews, Moss attacks my character with the appetite of an obsessed, crazed maggot. This little man does not discriminate though, he has staged similar attacks on most elected Republican officials…Today irresponsible editors use the excuse of "editorial opinion" to disguise slander, opinions, half truths, and little fact as legitimate articles…how much longer will the citizens of Henderson County have to endure the blight of Bill Moss, until the New York Times can find a newspaper in the arm pit of the world to move him to so that someone else can enjoy him for a while." (Tribune 3/7-13) Where was the editor?

Leonard Downie and Robert Kaiser correctly conclude that, "Good journalism holds communities together in times of crisis, providing information and the images that constitute shared experience…Good journalism--in a newspaper or magazine, on television, radio or the Internet-enriches Americans by giving them both useful information for their daily lives and a sense of participation in the wider world…Bad journalism-failing to report important news, or reporting news shallowly, inaccurately or unfairly-can leave people dangerously uninformed."

To my readers: If you ever wonder if I get comments on these columns, I do occasionally. What are your thoughts on the matter?
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*The opinions stated in this page are those of Ms. Eva Ritchey and do not necessarily represent the views of CyTech Computers & Internet Solutions, Inc.
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