THE HUNTER REPORT

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CLOSE, BUT NO CIGAR

A PLAY OF WORDS; THE INCORRECT CORRECTION

BY: PAT HUNTER

The common principles of good journalism are truthfulness, objectivity, accuracy, fairness, impartiality, and public accountability. If a newspaper makes a mistake, a correction should follow to set the record straight. I believe most newspapers try to give both sides of an issue but sometimes I wonder if there is a bias or slant with some newspapers and stories to give readers the wrong impression (un-intentionally or intentionally).

A recent story in our home town community paper (News Herald) covered a Loudon County Board of Education (BOE) Budget Committee meeting. The newspaper followed up with an article about two agenda items, Pre-K program, and Supplements. The headline read "Budget committee considers chopping Pre-K". Most of the article dealt with the Pre-K program but a few paragraphs toward the end of the story dealt with supplements. Supplements are paid to certain school personnel and non-faculty and the amount of the supplement may vary from $82 to $6,000. As I read the article, a couple of quotes stood out so it was time for me to refresh my memory and re-visit my video of the meeting. Is that how it really happened?     

I believe that all government officials including school board members should be held accountable for what they say and their actions however, we as readers should expect a newspaper to report a story in a fair and accurate manner. That's not asking too much!     

Quote #1:

"Shaver admitted he was willing to do away with all high school sports to save the money. However, Simon said it's money well-spent."  

The newspaper article did not include the quotes from school board member Gary Ubben who actually initiated the discussion, which led to the News Herald's Shaver-Simon quote. Although, District 5 school board member Gary Ubben is not on the BOE Budget Committee, Ubben jumped in with the committee's discussion. Instead of posing his questions and concerns to Chairperson Russell or speaking during two public comment periods, Ubben challenged Shaver and asked, well then what's the trade-off, if you don’t pay the supplements are you also willing to do away with the programs? Van Shaver asked if he wanted an answer to his question and said I am. Ubben then asked "Are you willing to do away with high school athletics". Shaver responded "It wouldn’t happen that way". The school board will have to make some tough decisions and cuts, there's no doubt about it. But the last thing that I recall was hearing Shaver say "It wouldn’t happen that way." At the time, I even chuckled as he said it. Who could forget, a couple of years ago, when the local newspaper reported how the school board threatened to cut out sports and bus service? The article caused quite a stir with sports enthusiasts, and parents with children in tow filled the Annex, wall to wall. The crowd expressed their displeasure of proposed budget cuts to commissioners, the funding body. But when all the dust settled and all was said and done, buses ran and athletes played sports. By the way, many of the new school board members (Russell, Simon, Shaver, etc.) were not in office, when this occurred.

Quote #2:  

"However, Simon said it's money well-spent."

Craig Simon and Rick Best discussed Band Supplements but the paper added Simon's quote to what Shaver purportedly said.

Quote #3:

"After Best asked why data entry wasn't part of the teachers' job, Vance said...."

In fact, it was Chairperson Lisa Russell not Rick Best that asked why data entry wasn't part of the teachers' job.

Some of the quotes were attributed to the wrong people. My personal opinion, it appears that the newspaper has a tendency to favor their friends, and target certain people for bad press, or no press. Personal feelings belong in the editorial/opinion page. Furthermore, newspaper corrections are supposed to clear up errors, mistakes in reporting, typos, or misquotes; not confuse the issues, take sides, or mislead readers.    

 

                                                                             

In the Sunday (Monday March 6-7 issue of the News-Herald, Van Shaver responded to a question from Gary Ubben
about supplements for coaches and teachers. Shave
r said he would be willing to do away with programs,
which include
high school athletics. He followed up saying "It wouldn't happen that way," when directly asked about high school ath-
letics. The News-Herald regrets any inconvenience it may have caused.

 

 

Budget committee considers chopping Pre-K

"...Supplements are paid to teachers and others who work with the students or the schools outside their normal job description. For example, some teachers and principals get paid to cover duty free lunches, paying for data entry or for coaching a sport.

Jason Vance, assistant director of schools, encouraged the committee to not cut supplements for those who work with band and sports.

"It shows appreciation for the folks who spend a crazy amount of time with the kids," Vance said.
 

"Are these $222 per year supplements more important than a teacher," Shaver asked.

"If you look at what you're paying for the hours worked, you are maybe paying 10 cents," Ubben said.

Shaver admitted he was willing to do away with all high school sports to save the money. However, Simon said it's money well-spent.

After Best asked why data entry wasn't part of the teachers' job, V
ance said that the data entry, when done during the day, takes away from their other duties. So, the job has be done on the weekends and after school.

"If you get hired by the schools to do a job, we're going to pay you 'x' number of dollar, then that's your job," Shaver said."

 

 

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03-15-2011