Misinformation, Fact Checking, and Journalistic Integrity
The November 18th edition of the Tillamook County Pioneer published an article rife with misinformation. I can only assume that the assistant editor responsible for writing Manzanita’s City Hall Project Brings Community Disagreement to a Head, and the editor responsible for publishing it didn’t bother to fact check the misinformation presented and failed to cite the sources used or direct quotes from whoever made them. Far from presenting unbiased information that would help inform the public, the Pioneer chose to publish a biased opinion piece in the guise of fact. Shame on them.
Let’s check some facts. I’ve pasted direct quotes from the article and responded. I don’t think this article is really about the city hall project, though. I think it’s another attempt to discredit our current city manager.
“The project caused rifts in the city council and staff, with resignations potentially influenced by these internal tensions.”
The writer uses innuendo here to imply that internal tensions about the city hall project was the driving factor for the resignations on council. The writer didn’t interview the councilors who resigned. There are no direct quotes.
“The Mayor’s recent resignation and two vacant board positions signal a governance system under strain. Amidst these resignations, the city manager has also brought a lawsuit to the city for a hostile work environment.”
The writer cites no source for this false information. There is no lawsuit. There is an employee complaint which required an independent investigation. The employee has not been named nor has the nature of the complaint. The city’s attorney and the city’s insurance company requested the investigation. This false information could only come from a source who attended executive sessions and misstated privileged information for their own benefit.
“But the (city hall) project comes at a time when all of the city’s infrastructure is aging out of its life cycle and when new water rates, which had been stable for years following the vote to increase them, are now being implemented with many homeowners left unable to pay them.”
The water rates in Manzanita haven’t been raised since 2014. Nehalem and Neahkahnie raised their rates last year and Cannon Beach raises their rates annually. In Manzanita rates depend on the customers usage and time of year.
The writer has no facts to support the claim homeowners can’t pay their bills. How many people did she talk with? What does ‘many’ mean? What’s her source? Where are the facts?
Vocal opponents criticize the project’s estimated $5 million bond as excessive, spotlighting concerns over the city manager’s spending without considering public opinion, which had voted the project down previously.
The estimated cost is 5 million dollars, but it’s not funded by a bond. Council made the decision to move forward with the City Hall project, not the City Manager. Several public meetings and conversations with citizens were held by council before the vote to proceed.
The current plan drew significant public scrutiny, so much so that a petition received over 120 signatures to bring the question to a vote. When the petition was presented to the Mayor nothing but the Council chose to move forward with the second phase of the project anyway.
The petition was to have a vote on every individual expenditure for city hall—every invoice—not to approve city hall or to fund city hall with a bond. The petitioner and the mayor had the opportunity to present their information at a regular council meeting but chose not to.
With Manzanita grappling with leadership gaps and a community divided, the path forward for the City Hall project remains uncertain. As the city confronts these challenges, the need for unified vision and collaborative problem-solving has never been more critical. Check back for a more in depth discussion with the former mayor and other residents.
The former mayor has a history of misstating information evidenced by her performance at the last council meeting. She’s spread untrue information in the community regarding the executive sessions, the independent investigation, and the city manager. We can assume the mayor is the source of this misinformation because who else present at the executive sessions would benefit by misrepresenting the narrative?
The writer promises a more in depth discussion with the former mayor but not with former councilors who resigned, not with the City Manager who seems to be the crux of this article, not with current council.
By publishing an article that is laden with misleading and untrue information the editor of the Pioneer makes it clear that facts don’t matter at their publication. Journalistic integrity relies on the reporters writing to fact check their information before publishing.
The Pioneer’s website ABOUT page states, “The Rotarian ‘4-way test’ resonated with all the partners, and acts as guiding principles for the organization:
Is it the TRUTH?
Is it FAIR to all concerned?
Will it build GOODWILL and better FRIENDSHIPS?
Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
Regarding this article, the answers to the questions are No. No. No, and No.
Kim Rosenberg firstname.lastname@example.org