To the Editor:
I read Jack Spicer’s letter chiding the Herald for its bias toward the Obama Presidential Center with amusement. By his reckoning, it would seem one extensive front page article on the legal viability of the Protect Our Parks lawsuit is sufficient to wipe out a two year history of Herald articles, editorials, and published letters that deride the project and call into question the intentions and integrity of the Obama Foundation and the people who support it.
I have been willing to give the Herald the benefit of the doubt in their coverage. They are understaffed and from my personal observations have inexperienced reporters unable to spend any amount of time doing deep coverage of issues. News stories are Hyde Park-centric and based on the low hanging fruit of events or people who contact them with “news tips.” Since most OPC supporters, particularly those outside of the Hyde Park neighborhood, do not as a matter of course publish newsletters or call press conferences every time they have something to say, it is not surprising that Herald content is more likely to be based on publicly available soundbites than actual situational reporting.
But I have been concerned that maybe the Herald believes they are reporting the predominant point of view on the south side, or at least Hyde Park. My own experience has been it takes time to tease out the pro-OPC position in all its varieties, time a beleaguered Herald reporter does not have. So, earlier this summer I offered to assemble a group of pro-OPC supporters to be interviewed. The Herald reporter showed up, said he was interested in personal profiles not a group interview, asked a provocative question about why we “disliked” anti-OPC supporters, and then left 15 minutes into the session to cover another story. No follow-up ensued. The same reporter contacted me after the City Council meeting where the OPC plan was approved. He asked for a copy of the written statement I presented at that session,” because he couldn’t get his tape recorder to work.” Again no follow-up, but a couple of quotes from my statement were incorporated into a much more expansive article with extensive inches given to concerns raised by anti-OPC groups. Should I consider these incidents evidence of biased reporting?
I want to thank Bruce Sagan for all he has done for Hyde Park and for his astonishing run as publisher of the Herald. I am also happy that he has the wisdom to appoint a new publisher who can bring fresh eyes and new energy. On one point I can agree with Mr. Spicer, our community needs a local newspaper with an independent voice and quality content to match.