Journalism 101

This week’s edition of the Lake Norman Citizen (or as I like to refer to it, LKN Tax the Citizen) once again demonstrates why it can accurately boast of being “the only experienced, professional, legitimate news outlet in the Lake Norman region.” If you’re an aspiring journalism professional who wants to learn how to get politicians to do what you want while still maintaining the pretense of being an objective journalist, you definitely need to read this week’s Citizen.

See, when you’re supposed to be an objective journalist just reporting the facts you have to work extra hard to maintain that pretense of objectivity so you don’t reveal to your readers that you have just as many biases as they do. For example, at the Citizen they have to work to hide their utter disdain for conservatives and their even greater disdain for any effort (usually) by conservative politicians to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. So when the Huntersville town board initially deferred a vote in April and then later voted 3-2 against the proposed revised agreement with the Carolina Rapids during the May 1, 2017 board meeting, the objective journalists at the Citizen went to work right away to ensure the vote went the way it was supposed to next time.

Lay the groundwork in the Horse’s Mouth section for how great the Rapids organization is and how a deal with them shouldn’t be about the money (remember, it’s Parks and Rec, not Parks and Revenue) after some board members had the audacity to ask questions about the proposed agreement during the April 17 board meeting. Check.

After the May 1 vote against the agreement, run a one-sided article highlighting all of the supposed benefits of extending the Rapids agreement without providing any perspective on how much it costs taxpayers to operate Barry Park every year or any information about how much revenue the Rapids reported on their Form 990 last year. Check.

The week before the May 15 board meeting, write a super clever editorial (and I mean like Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing clever) that people will think is about actually cleaning a house, but in reality is about cleaning house at Huntersville town hall, that attempts to accuse the fiscally conservative majority on the board of not acting fiscally conservative enough and cite the Rapids vote as an example. Check.

Then, when Commissioner Boone, one of the original dissenting board members, does the right thing and places the agreement back on the agenda for the May 15 meeting so the board can finally vote the right way – in the May 17 issue, run cover photo on the print edition with celebratory soccer players and text above the photo stating Town, Rapids back in business; credit Commissioner Boone as being the driving force behind saving soccer in Huntersville and quote him in not one, but two sections of the paper (along with a nice headshot in the print edition!); conveniently leave out that the other “fiscally conservative” board members also voted for the agreement to avoid any favorable print for them in an election year; and write a Leslie Knope-esque editorial as a reminder to other politicians that they better not try to cut any money from parks and rec again. Check.

Continue to rake in advertising dollars from parks and rec affiliated partners and area sports leagues (including the ones who engage in viewpoint discrimination which we just turn a blind eye to even though we’re journalists). Check!

And that’s how you journalism.

But hey, I’m just some guy on the internet so what do I know.

Eric

Did Swain just imply Aneralla accepted a bribe over HFFA?

During the public comments portion of last night’s well attended Huntersville town board meeting, former mayor Jill Swain strongly implied bribery was a motivation for current mayor John Aneralla to place the HFFA management contract discussion on the agenda. It is a felony in NC [NCGS 14-217] for any person holding office to receive anything of value, including campaign contributions, for performing any official act.

You can listen to her comments for yourself here beginning at approx. the 25:35 mark. Mrs. Swain read from the minutes of the Oct. 19, 2015 town board meeting – which took place less than a month before the election that Swain lost to Aneralla – wherein Mr. Aneralla, commenting on the HFFA contract renewal discussion that night, stated in part, “I believe there’s a citizen here that would like to bid for that contract.”

Mrs. Swain then commented that what Mr. Aneralla did not say was that the citizen in question who followed him in public comments at that meeting was a donor to his own campaign, Mr. Brian Sheehan. [Sheehan contributed $1,000 to the Aneralla campaign in August 2015.] She went on to state that she was curious about the reason this board is potentially interested in breaking a five year contract that would unnecessarily cost our taxpayers. She concluded by encouraging citizens to watch and see if Mr. Sheehan is first in line to bid on that contract.

If Mrs. Swain’s comments were not intended to imply the current mayor accepted a bribe in order to have the board vote on whether to bid out the HFFA management contract I would think she would want to publicly clarify her comments.

Mrs. Swain’s concern for the well being of the taxpayers is welcome, but I have to ask where that same concern was when the board she presided over decided against putting this $183,564 annual contract out for bid in October 2015? [see the contract in question below] As I stated in my own public comments last night, only in government could it be seen as a good thing to NOT consider bidding out a contract in 15 years.

HSW 2015

I reached out to Mr. Sheehan for a comment and asked if he contributed to the Aneralla campaign in order to ensure Aneralla would allow the HFFA management contract be put out for bid? Mr. Sheehan replied, “Absolutely not. I’ve known him for 15 years, have given to his other campaigns for office over the years. I haven’t spoken with, emailed with or otherwise been in contact with John in about a year. I never asked him to put this issue on the agenda. Glad he did and think it is the right thing to do, but I haven’t spoken with him in a year.”

Mrs. Swain closed her campaign account earlier this year according to Meck Board of Election filings. But, you have to wonder whether we just witnessed the opening salvo of the 2017 mayoral campaign after her comments last night.