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Monday, October 31, 2005

Buffalo News is part of the Problem

The Buffalo News is part of the Problem

While the public is screaming for an alternative to the corrupt political machine that has lead Buffalo and Erie County into the ground, The Buffalo News refuses to report anything substantive about the two Mayoral candidates that are challenging the Democratic and Republican front-runners.

Below are a brief statistical analysis of the Buffalo News’ coverage of the candidates over the past 6 months, and a critical analysis of their coverage of the two mayoral debates.

This is the number of times over the past 6 months that a candidate’s name has appeared in a Buffalo News article.

Byron Brown 213 times
Kevin Helfer 122 times
Judith/Judy Einach 40 times
Charles/Charlie Flynn about 40*

It is difficult to get an estimate for Flynn because there are a lot of Charles and Flynns in the city.

It is also useful to see how many times the News mentioned more then one candidate in the same article. If two or more candidates names appear it usually means that they are being compared against each other at some level. Comparative articles are usually more in depth, and placed more prominently in the paper. They also tend to be about more important issues, as opposed to an article mentioning just one candidate which might be a simple blurb about overcoming some legal obstacle. Brown and Helfer received 4 times more attention than Einach and Flynn.

# of articles mentioning specified candidates in the same article. Past 6 months

Brown and Helfer 106
Brown, Helfer and Einach 25
Brown, Helfer and Flynn 24

Coverage of the Debates

The debates are worthwhile to watch for the simple fact that all the candidates get equal time to express their views. However the Buffalo News Coverage of the debates was not nearly as fair.

The News’ Coverage of the first debate was absolutely appalling. The article by Anthony Cardinale was titled “Brown-Helfer Duel Enlivens Debate”. I understand people are on short schedules and only have about 6 hours to write a major article for the newspaper but seriously, Charles Flynn and Judy Einach were mentioned in the 13th and 14th paragraph respectively… and it was only a 15-paragraph story. We got a brief snippet of their opening statements at the very end of the article, at which point most people have already stopped reading, especially if they don’t want to listen to two political heavyweights take cheap shots at each other.

Some of the more interesting questions and answers were addressed, such as Brown’s union ties and Palidino’s sponsorship of Helfer’s campaign. However, as I watched the debate the two minor candidates were far more interesting than Brown and Helfer, yet they were given a measly amount of space. They were offering innovative solutions to key problems in the city. For example, if we want to create jobs why not focus on allowing entrepreneurs and small businesses start and expand their businesses instead of trying to lure in national and multinational corporations, that are not tied to our community and whose profits go out of town.

When people asked me what I thought about the debate I said that I was glad we had Flynn and Einach there, because they actually discussed the issues and enriched the discussion. I fear how little would have been discussed if it was only Brown and Helfer bantering back and forth and spending their energy on trivial accusations.

Some people may get excited about watching Brown and Helfer try to beat the other guy down as if this was some sort of wrestling match, but most of buffalo is turned off by it, and it’s a poor way to frame an article.

The News and Mr. Cardinale learned some lessons after their first article and didn’t make as many mistakes in the article “Mayoral hopefuls debate issues one last time before election: Brown ignores gibes from opponent Helfer” published today. They actually gave a synopsis of the opening statements in the first 7 paragraphs. Einach was mentioned 5 times and Flynn 4 throughout the 850 word story, although that’s about half the attention that both Brown and Helfer received.

The article was still framed as a battle, and biased toward Brown, mentioning the Buffalo news recent poll that heavily favored Brown. And also mentioning his endorsement by respected state comptroller Alan G. Hevesi, both of which had nothing to do with the story. Also an obvious omission in the piece was Brown’s refusal to answer a question about the downfalls of a casino and how he would deal with them, instead Brown chose to list the same positives he mentioned last week. Brown was then directly asked to answer the question and didn’t, annoying many members of the audience, and leaving a lasting impression.

Don’t trust the Buffalo News to give you a fair account of area politics. If you want to know what happened at the debates watch the video. And if you want to learn about the candidates you have to go to their websites or ask them directly. Especially if you want to know about Judy Einach and Charles Flynn, because the news won’t cover them. The News will not and cannot give you the whole story, so don’t let them frame the discussion for you. Listen to the interviews and visit the websites. And no matter how many times Helfer and Brown say “my opponent” remember that they have three opponents, there are four candidates in this race. Don’t be fooled.

Article Posted on WNY Media.net


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