I love newspaper reporting. I've loved it since I was a kid and I'll love it until the day I die. When other boys my age were trading cards emblazoned with the likenesses of Jim Brown, Johnny Unitas or Lou Groza, I was clipping columns by Mike Royko, Jimmy Breslin and Cleveland's own Dick Feagler.
When I was 21, as some high school chums were laboring through college to get degrees in journalism, I took my first newspaper job, as the sports editor of what are now the Sun Newspapers in Cleveland. Later, I worked at newspapers in Pennsylvania, where I learned everything, and New York City, where I had a lot of fun.
I mention this only because, this past week, a botched abortion of journalism took place here, a sad sin against truth, and a lousy, lazy, spoon-fed piece of propaganda became a two-day, front-page headline in the Niagara Gazette.
The articles were written, of course, by Mark Scheer.
They had to do with a flier sent out on behalf of the John Accardo campaign. According to Scheer and the Gazette, the state Republican Party paid for it. Scheer is 100 percent sure this is correct, because he heard it from Paul Dyster himself.
Scheer never bothered to pick up a telephone and find out what happened, so I did it for him.
Dennis Gallagher, who owns Gallagher Printing in Buffalo, is as old-school as you can get. He bleeds ink. He was raised in the business his father started in 1964, and he printed the flier in question.
Scheer has been involved in the newspaper business on some level for a dozen years. He is familiar with typographical errors. Had he simply called Dennis Gallagher, he would have known that his non-story was hardly worth all the ink he spilled over it.
"They sent it in as a PDF file and needed it mailed out immediately," Gallagher told the Niagara Falls Reporter. "It was already formatted and that permit number was in place. Unfortunately, it was the wrong permit number."
The flier had been paid for by the Conservative Party, Gallagher said. Accardo is the endorsed Conservative Party candidate for mayor. The reason Scheer was so quick to jump on the non-story without checking the facts is that he supports Accardo's opponent in the election, Mayor Paul Dyster.
Gallagher's business revolves around mailers, for political candidates, non-profit organizations and retail merchants. He's good at what he does, maybe the best in the business in this part of the world but, as anyone who's ever been involved in putting ink to paper can tell you, mistakes do happen.
"Of course I had no idea that the political climate in Niagara Falls was so poisoned as to take a simple printing error and make it into front-page news," Gallagher said. "All anyone had to do was call me, but you're the only one who did."
The likelihood of Scheer printing a retraction or clarification to his wildly erroneous stories is about zero. Like many hacks who find themselves in the back pockets of some cheap politician, he finds it hard to admit, even to himself, that they are shilling.
If he would like to do the right thing, he can call Dennis Gallagher and get the real story, one not spun by the brain trust at the Dyster camp.
I'm doubtful that will happen, so here is the real story, in Gallagher's own words.
"It was a mistake. I've apologized. What happened was this: We used an old template and it got through," he said. "It was a typographical error. Nobody called me to ask."
Conservative Party Chairman Daniel Weiss issued his own statement.
"The Niagara County Conservative Party has endorsed John Accardo in the race for Mayor of the City of Niagara Falls. The committee wholeheartedly supports John in this race, and as such, intends to devote financial resources to support his efforts," he said.
"Due to printer error, the political postcard that was recently mailed to Democrats in Niagara Falls was mistakenly attributed to the New York State GOP, not the Niagara County Conservative Party, as it should have been. As with any political organization, we are well within our rights to support candidates that embody the beliefs of our party. As we believe John Accardo is the right choice for the people of Niagara Falls, we stand by the mail piece and will continue to devote resources to Mr. Accardo's campaign of lower taxes, enhanced economic development and tourism initiatives, and job creation for the people of Niagara Falls."
If you can't trust the main political reporter at the major daily newspaper to get a story right, if they deliberately concoct some elaborate conspiracy theory in order to explain something so simple as a printing error, which he's familiar with as a newspaperman, you know you're getting some skewed representation of events that has little to do with any reality.
You're being lied to, in other words, by a hack whose duty it is to tell you the truth.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||Aug. 23, 2011|