Editorial

So is the local town crier in the business over his head?

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate” — Strother Martin in “Cool Hand Luke,” 1966

ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” article. It is an editorial by the editor.

It was regrettable, but inevitable, what happened earlier this week. Townbroadcast published a story Thursday night erroneously indicating Hopkins and Martin school districts would not follow an Allegan County Health Department order for all students in grades K-6 to wear masks in the classroom because of the Covid pandemic’s newfangled Delta strain.

I decided to publish what turned out to be a false report Thursday evening because of five factors:

  1. The WOOD-TV Channel 8 web site reported regional and state health departments had revised orders to permit local districts to decide for themselves on masking.
  2. The same news source reported that Hopkins and Martin were recommending, but not mandating students to mask up.
  3. Last spring the County Health Department issued a request for all schools to go to hybrid instruction (including on line). Wayland did, but Hopkins decided to continue with its four days a week instruction plan and Martin decided to stay the course with five days a week of in-person classes.
  4. A number of self-described Constitutional scholars have maintained health department officials do not have the power to tell schools what they must do in their classrooms.
  5. There was no indication otherwise on the Hopkins and Martin school district web sites.

This development was more than a possibility in the wake of the coverage area for the old Wayland Globe and Penasee Globe since it lost its community newspaper in January 2019.

To be sure, there have been a number of volunteer-driven local news Facebook chatter sites that since have filled some of the loss of information, but such sites do not customarily report on what happened at a township board, village council, city council or school board meeting. That was the purview of the community newspaper.

After I retired from more than 40 years in community journalism in 2012, I realized I didn’t want to sit in front of a TV and wait to die. So, with the help of the New Jersey-based Townbroadcast entity, I started the local paper all on line idea with an eye toward covering much of what the Globe did in bygone days, before it began its slow death as a free weekly “throwaway.”

When Advance newspapers shut down the weeklies almost three years ago, I noted with some consternation that no one but I appeared at municipal meetings. So if I didn’t do it, nobody would, and the only local news people in these parts would get would be the occasional ax murder or sensational or unusual story.

It wasn’t really a great sacrifice for me.

One of the biggest reasons for the demise of community weeklies and small dailies was purely economic. The biggest costs were printing and distribution. Because mine is all via the Internet, I absorb neither cost.

But aside from my outstanding group of columnists and a few tipsters, Townbroadcast is a one-man show that relies very heavily on the Internet and Facebook. The latter, as many know, is sporting, unpredictable and too often plagued by misinformation. So my job is to separate the wheat from the chaff, using my experience, to determine whether information is worthy of publication or not.

I have tried to avoid celebrity journalism, promote community-based stories and sidestep the awful trend of focusing so much on the individual. Sometimes I have failed.

My greatest need is cooperation from those involved with making the news. Some have been good at letting me know about developments and coming events. Others… not so much, especially if the news is not perky and positive.

There still exist people who believe I should be a community cheerleader. I am not.

My credo: “I report on what I see and hear. Sometimes I comment on it. Sometimes there is trouble.”

 

9 Comments

  • You are doing a good job. Not perfect and screw up sometimes but not often. Kinda like everyone else. Keep at it, beats watching tv waiting to die for sure.

  • Dave I read tv 8 news allegan health dept and the schools web. sites all different. The big heads who comment on your so called poor facts are a holes who never have made a mistake!! You are doing a GREAT JOB keep it up I read town broadcast every morning.

  • Dave, You are doing a wonderful job of providing the local area with news. An occasional error should be expected simply because of the volume of your reporting. It is going to happen and then the appropriate correction is made. Thanks for what you do, keep on keeping on.

    Lindy Anderson

  • Dave you are doing a great job keeping up with the local news and events. I to dearly miss reading the local paper and especially the old fashioned thick Grand Rapids Press( I refuse to pay five bucks for this ghost of a paper). I know this is your show but I think sometimes we could do with a little less of your strong political views in this venue. Maybe save it for the like minded chat rooms out there. Sorry but keep up the good work!

  • After reading all these comments I feel like we, at Then and Now, should hold the door open for you. They are right! Keep up the good work. You definitely provide a service to the public.

  • Do I believe everything I read in the papers or online is 100% true and accurate? Suuuure I do – NOT!
    David, there is a world of difference between making an honest error in reporting something inaccurately because of flawed information ( think weapons of mass destruction ) and deliberately twisting facts around or blatantly lying in order to deceive the public into believing something that isn’t true in order to advance your own personal program. ( Think Fox News ) . You are doing fine, keep up the good work. I’m sure Irv would have approved.

  • David,
    Truly if not you, then who? This publication has done a good job of covering news that is important to residents and sometimes those involved making news who would rather it not be noticed.

    Three examples come to mind. The hearing on the re-zoning for the air park in Leighton Township; The arrest of Katherine Henry, a self labeled “ Constitutional” attorney from Hudsonville who set up a tent to get a petition signed on Election Day in the Leighton Township offices parking lot on Election Day in Nov 2020 and called Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf for assistance when she refused to leave; Dorr Township fast tracking of Copart a National vehicle salvage/auction operation seeking to locate and expand after acquiring LKQ and Frontier Truck Parts.

    The local newspaper in physical form and online has been decimated by mergers, acquisitions, operation “efficiencies” and has suffered the same fate as local radio and TV where a relatively few own what were independent entities allowed to make decisions for local programming.

    In Townbroadcast’s case there is nothing to fall back on and given Wayland and the surrounding areas like Hopkins, Martin, Plainwell and all the townships surrounding them are too far north to get any attention from Kalamazoo media and too far south for Grand Rapids media.

    Townbroadcast does a great job with covering planning and council news along with what roads, sewer and water infrastructure repairs are decided on and when they will commence. Grim as it sounds, obituaries still are desired content, maybe more recently since COVID has reduced interaction.

    One thing that’s missing from the papers like the GR Press and K-zoo Gazette (both part of the M-Live conglomerate) is decent HS sports coverage. If some fans of local teams could attend games and get statistics from the press box or coaching staffs after events that might jump this site’s visits. The scores and statistics that were staples in agate summaries are gone from coverage.

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