An Albany politician called the Albany Times-Union a “useless” and “worthless rag” this week.
But Steve McLaughlin, an Assemblyman who is running for Rensselaer County executive, didn’t stop there.
He said the newspaper reporters and editors were “hacks.”
He said they were “ridiculous.”
And he promised, if elected, he would never talk to them again.
There was no word whether he stomped his feet and held his breath in this tantrum during a radio interview.
This contempt was seeded by the Times-Union’s coverage about a tape recording that surfaced over how McLaughlin had treated a female colleague.
As an editor of a newspaper that has also been called “fake news” by a sitting politician, I congratulate my colleagues for their inclusion in the fastest-growing club in our democracy.
This past week, we reported that the village of South Glens Falls was facing difficult financial times, the Washington County Board of Supervisors proposed a budget that will keep them under the salary cap and a Cambridge teacher was suspended because of the presentation of a program that may not have been age-appropriate.
These and dozens and dozens of other stories are published week after week without a calamitous calling that we are “making things up.”
Except when it turns to certain politicians.
The general public is being asked to swallow that when it comes to basic news — arrests, fires, town hall meetings — newspapers generally get it right, but when it comes to political debate we are one-sided, slanted and let our own beliefs get in the way of our reporting.
As Times-Union columnist Chris Churchill pointed out, “Understand though, that 'fake news' claims serve a potent purpose. Once a politician convinces supporters that the news is phony, that politician is inoculated against anything negative that’s revealed.”
I don’t know Churchill, but I do know a few people who work at the Times-Union. I believe their work should be respected and admired, while politicians like McLaughlin are the ones who need to be called out.
McLaughlin owes the T-U an apology.
I don’t understand how intelligent folks can reconcile that their local newspaper — whether it’s The Post-Star, the Times-Union or some other newspaper — can report a vast array of news, human interest and community accomplishments with precise accuracy, yet conspire to fabricate facts and mislead the electorate when it comes to politics.
Too often, those who spread these falsehoods speak with glee of the economic challenges facing the newspaper industry. They want us to go away.
The product we produce is still good.
The journalists we employ are better than they have ever been. Their only bias is toward fairness.
But because people have changed the way they shop, and businesses have changed the way they advertise, revenues continue to fall.
When our newspaper introduced a new product earlier this year to add a new revenue stream to save jobs and protect the journalism that serves this community, our publisher was served with a littering summons.
And many cheered.
But one reader said it best with this comment:
“With all of the financial challenges facing community newspapers for their very survival every day, these people want to do this? They should be doing everything in their power to help keep local community journalism alive in Glens Falls and the surrounding communities, not trying to kill it. Check the national news, small newspapers are going out of business every day and their readers are SHOCKED that somebody didn’t do something to save something so important. It’s stuff like this that is so wrong, so out of place. Save your paper. Buy ads and appreciate that you have local news.”
When you start listening to politicians who have something to gain over journalists who do not, we are all in trouble.