WestportNow will again be featured as part of a larger story in the New York Times on Sunday. It’s a story in the Connecticut section about local Web sites in the tri-state region. In addition to WestportNow, the article mentions AmericanTowns.com and Baristanet.
The article spends a great deal of time about how WestportNow runs, but specifically on how Gordon Joseloff, WN founder and publisher, has a conflict of interest. As a result, the article seems to imply that I also have a conflict of interest and a bias:
Such a hard-news bent puts Mr. Joseloff in a tricky ethical position, since he signs Ms. Connic’s paychecks, and she covers his actions as town leader. “By the Society of Professional Journalists’ rules am I in conflict of interest?” Mr. Joseloff asked. “I plead guilty, but it’s a service to the town, and I’ll let the readers judge whether it’s objective.”
I’m always grateful for press that mentions me by name (and even spells my name correctly), but I wish they had interviewed me because I have issues with articles that imply I am not objective in my reporting (which is the main reason I’m posting this entry). And I have had a number of people make comments about Gordon’s continued involvement as publisher of WestportNow implying I am not objective in my coverage of Westport. I do not like the accusations and implications that sometimes are hurled in my direction since I pride myself on being an even-handed reporter. I have a reputation of such in covering Westport for over six years (five of them with The Hour and more than a year with WestportNow).
Gordon does not tell me what to cover. He does not tell me what not to cover. He has never questioned my news judgment about running (or not running) a piece, especially a story that involves him. Of course he has opinions since he is publisher, but he never makes directives. If anything, his opinions are more about style, grammar and other basic editing changes that need to be done. I do consider Gordon a mentor and welcome his advice, but I have for over six years. His advice was coming long before WestportNow even existed.
When I was still at The Hour and would cover the RTM — when Gordon was still moderator and running WN at the same time — I observed he would hold back on RTM stories until they had appeared in other publications if he would run them at all. I started as a freelance reporter with WN when he was running for first selectman, and he had decided long before I started that there wouldn’t be any coverage of the election until election night. Why? To avoid the perceived conflict of interest. It was a frustrating time as a reporter, but I understood the reasoning.
I do get tips on stories fed to me, but it’s no different than how anyone else treats me as a reporter. I get tips on stories from a lot of people. I’ve been covering Westport for a long time and have a lot of sources who are constantly feeding me information. Why do they tell me things? My reputation of being even-handed and fair and “getting the story right.” That existed long before I started at WestportNow. Consider the fact that Westporters were picking up The Hour to read while I was there, but now I am constantly told how they are dropping their subscriptions since I left there.
I also have a problem with the line in the New York Times story that implies we only cover the best trick-or-treating spots and spot news police stories. Spot news is definitely a strength of WestportNow, but our strength is quality, timely reporting (and an army of citizen reporters who hold up to those standards). We report the stories of interest to Westporters. The prime example of that is our recent coverage of the Paul Rudolph-designed home on Minute Man Hill (which was demolished today) and our recent all-day kindergarten stories. Both are stories you will hear people chatting about throughout Westport.
I will echo Gordon’s comments. Let people read WestportNow and form their own opinions. I’m sure they’ll like what they find. Over 5,000 hits per day tells me people like WestportNow.