Herb McMillan For Anne Arundel County Executive <-----
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“Nationals October 2019

A Conundrum Of Sorts

| June 18, 2011, 11:33 AM | 21 Comments

If you are reading this, you are signed up for our newsletter and received a link. Either that, or you are a really good guesser or URLs. You are likely one of our most loyal readers and are either checking us out frequently, subscribing to our feed, following us on twitter or reading our facebook page.  And now we need your opinion. Here is the backstory.

Ever since we appeared on the scene, we have never professed to be an online “newspaper”. We are a news source. We do not have the staff to sniff out stories, delve into fact checking each press release we receive–do we really need to verify that the proceeds from an event go to the Chesapeake Bay Trust? Or can we just take the release at its word?  We think the latter and as such, we do re-post and pass along information contained in various press releases.We also understand that these releases will be spun in favor of the whomever released it. We also assume you are intelligent enough to sort through the spin and act accordingly.

For the past two years, one County agency (will remain unnamed) has been (oh, there is no delicate way to say this) a thorn in our side. We can’t win. If we publish something that may be contrary to their opinion, we get chastised for being biased and publishing a “tabloid.”  We have received countless emails from the agency criticizing our pieces (which are often re-published press releases) and calling them irresponsible because we did not come to them for their position to be included. They are very aware that they are able to comment on the piece or offer a rebuttal which will be published in its entirety as well. They have typically declined to do that and prefer to “bully” their message through.

Most recently, they took exception to a release that we published that put them in a poor light. Rather than issue a rebuttal or comment, they sent us an email at 1030pm on a weekend night advising that we were irresponsible and included a “for the record” statement. Since the statement was 180 degrees from the original post (essentially calling the original post/release factually incorrect), we updated the post at 9am the following morning only to receive a critical email saying that we were biased and it took us 10 hours to post the update.  As our readers know, updates are posted up front and center. We thought the update was pretty timely. If this had been The Capital or any other print medium,  it would have appeared on page Z-113, 3 days later.

So what do you think? Can you decipher messages on your own and spot the spin? Or do you feel that we need to contact every mentioned organization mentioned in a release to get their opinion or statement. Please take out poll and leave a comment–and thanks for reading!

Category: NEWS

About the Author - John Frenaye

John is the publisher and editor of Eye On Annapolis. As a resident and business owner in Anne Arundel County for nearly 25 years, he realized that there was something missing in terms of community news–and Eye On Annapolis was born in late spring 2009.

John’s background is in the travel industry as a business owner, industry speaker, and travel writer. In terms of blogging and social media, he cut his teeth with MSNBC.com.

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Comments (21)

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  1. Andrew says:

    It would seem that this particular county agency has their priorities wrong, going after the re-printer of the press releases in question, rather than the SOURCE of the press releases. It is interesting that a County agency would have so much excess time on their hands that they see fit to misuse it.

  2. John Frenaye says:

    Yes one would think. Shooting the messenger, but hey , I could be wrong! Thanks for your comment. Please send me an email at [email protected] and I will send out your gift card tomorrow!

    John

  3. Seth Perry says:

    As someone who’s been both reading and blogging for this website for nearly two years–this is ridiculous.

    First of all, we’re conscious about honest and accurate reporting here. Our goal is to share news and opinions with the people of Anne Arundel County. If news is inaccurate or biased, it’s no longer news, not only rendering our goals moot but severing the trust between us and our readers. Knowing that, we’ve always made an effort to be as accurate as possible. Working with John as he edits and fact-checks my articles before posting, I’ve learned that he likes to leave no stone unturned and is dedicated to make sure that the information we put forth is accurate and unbiased (there are always opinions in columns on the site, of course, but these are never stated as if they were facts). Do we make mistakes? Yes, plenty of them, because we simply haven’t got the resources other places have. Given that, we remind our readers–in this article and plenty of others I’ve seen–that we are not infallible–and we also have the absolute best policy of any website I’ve ever seen for correcting our mistakes. John is incredibly humble about this sort of thing and will make all manner of updates or corrections to the article (as he did in the case we’re discussing here) until it is completely correct.

    Second, I know exactly which agency John is talking about, and they have certainly been very touchy. I made the huge mistake of criticizing this agency in a column over a year ago for their handling of “snowmageddon” as it related to their operations, and received a sarcastic, patronizing, and close-minded comment from a very high-ranking individual in the agency (as in appointed by the governor high-ranking). I think they need to back off a little bit–they’re an agency that does a good job in general but are so rabidly defensive on the few mistakes that they make…they come out looking like they’re trying to pick a fight.

    Then again, maybe all local government agencies have inflated egos, just a little bit–something I’m going to touch on in my upcoming column about the DMV; look for it!

  4. Ernie says:

    I think you guys do a good job at keeping on top of things. Considering you’re not a news agency in the truest form, you do a good job at helping people keep on top of the highlights. If I ever had a question a question about an article, I would go to your source and read some more if need be. Thank you for being a part of the one stop shop in keeping me informed on happenings in the area. It’s very much appreciated.

  5. John Frenaye says:

    Thanks Fish– send me an email with your address again and I will shoot you the card!

  6. John Frenaye says:

    Thank you Ernie. That is the fine line we walk. We are a source, not a news agency. An example I use when I speak to groups is the Patch websites. They are hyper local (and I love them) and while I am here in Annapolis 30 minutes from a fire in Glen Burnie, I know that the Glen Burnie Patch will have the on the scene details and I refer to them. I will give the “Joe Friday” version “just the facts maam” and let someone else who either has the resources or a smaller coverage area to do the follow up.

    Please send me an email with your address and I will shoot out your Sonic card! [email protected]!

    Thanks

  7. John says:

    I think Lee’s recommendation of printing a disclaimer would be the easiest resolution to this issue. If the County Agency wants the facts verified then they can either go to the original publisher or verify the facts for themselves. I doubt they want to irritate the former and probably don’t have the staff or funding for the latter. It’s always easier to go after “the little guy” and try to bully or overwhelm them with attacks. The county has bigger fish to fry and needs to be more efficient and effective with how they use our tax dollars.

  8. Ernie says:

    We appreciate your efforts here. I know if anything major happens, I can count on seeing it from you. Thanks for keeping me up to date on area happenings. People just need to realize your providing a nice simple service, and you’re not trying to out people or point fingers, just trying to be informative.

  9. Barbara says:

    Hi John.,
    You do a great job keeping us updated on area events, closings, etc. Obviously the guy has some kind of a problem and this is how he chooses to deal with it. To me it’s almost an abuse of his position to continue to harass you when you are only passing on the “word”

    Hope ya have a great weekend!

  10. Conrad says:

    If it puts them in poor light and it is true then they need to change. If it isn’t true then they shoul make a reply on their website with factual evidence that proves eye kn annapolis’ post incorrect. Don’t fact check if an individual wants to know more let them research it themselves.

  11. John Frenaye says:

    All of our stories are sourced. Sometimes with links other times at the bottom. It is frustrating at times. Thanks for your comment John and if you can email me your address, I will send you a Sonic card out in Monday’s mail!

    [email protected]

    John

  12. John Frenaye says:

    Thanks Barbara–

    Please shoot me an email ([email protected]) with your address and I will shoot a Sonic card out to you!

    Thanks
    John

  13. John Frenaye says:

    Hi Conrad–

    Thanks for the comment and most of our stuff is sourced via links, attachments or with a source line. So I completely agree with you. Now I will say that if somethign is outlandish, we do fact check. For instance the motorcycle crash the other day. We knew the situation and the identities the mornign of the crash, but needed to make sure that we did not report the names of someone who was not involved.

    Please shoot me an email with your address and I will send out your Sonic card tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

    John

  14. John Frenaye says:

    Wow, we got our five commenters so fast! Thank you all!

  15. Wendy Marxen says:

    Hi John, without seeing examples of the disputed facts, I answer this survey from the perspective of a public relations professional. The onus is absolutley on the author of the press release to clearly and sufficiently define the purpose of the release and provide all relevant facts in sufficient detail to prevent misinterpretation by news outlets. It takes skill and attention to detail to write an effective, accurate press release. If you are re-posting a release verbatum, there is no reason for you to fact-check or add a disclaimer to the post. Should you choose to editorialize, label the post as editorial and move on. You have no further responsibility to the issuer of the release. Any questions about content should be directed to the point of contact provided in the release header. The individual or agency in question needs to solve this problem internally. To lash out at a news blogger or any news agency is unprofessional and is indicative of management problems within the agency.

  16. leslie hunt says:

    DARN, I missed the gift card. This particular agency uses the background in news to his advantage in that he has obviously struck a chord with us by prompting us to ask: Is this the right thing to do?
    They all churn out press releases and get very well paid to do so- I will continue to post them when
    A. I think the information has some kernel of news value and leave it up to the reader to digest or
    B. I simply need a post and there it was

    Although we are a media outlet, we don’t have the staff to turn every semi-interesting press release into a story.

    If indeed there is a story, then they shouldn’t be sending out a press release- maybe try inviting the press in for a briefing, a press conference- leave it up to THEM to TELL us that it is worth the time- that is what they are paid the BIG BUCKS for! Does that make sense?

  17. Suzanne says:

    I enjoy all your posts, and think Annapolitans and surrounding residents can read between the b.s and the facts.

    Keep on doing what you are doing :)

  18. John Frenaye says:

    Thanks Suzanne!

  19. John Frenaye says:

    Yup. Thanks for the comment Leslie. And for our SP readers, you all do know about the Severna Park Patchh–right?

  20. John Frenaye says:

    Thanks Wendy. The best way to describe this situation is like this. Bill think the sky is blue and you think it is purple. I re-post a press release sent out by Bill saying that the sky was a “brilliant shade of blue today like it is every other day despite that Wendy says it is purple”. Now you are upset and rather than issue a rebuttal, make a comment to “correct” the release, or issue your own “the sky is purple” release, you come to me and suggest it is tabloid journalism (which by the way I am not so sure is the insult that it once was–National Enquirer broke the Edwards, Swarzenegger, and I believe Gary Hart stories) because I did not come to you to “verify” the blue press release and inject your thoughts on the purple sky!

  21. leslie hunt says:

    Thanks for the shout-out John- I have about 25 new FB friends for SP Patch- yahooo. I’m trying to catch-up with Mitchelle..ha. Per the topic, I think Wendy did a nice job explaining the nature of a press release- why bother to send it if we aren’t supposed to use it in some way. If it has no news value as it stands, like a brief or announcement, then they should be directing their energies elsewhere-

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