The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly at Your Hometown Newspaper

I appreciate your indulgence for my periodic media watch posts because here I go again…

The _______ Ledger is the news standard-bearer in Lakeland and Polk County. We don’t have an independent TV news station, and our radio stations are too overtaxed to be expected to carry the news coverage burden alone. That’s why I expect so much from our newspaper. After all, it is backed by the resources of the fine The New York Times. In recent days there are some Ledger items I’d like to highlight.

The Good:

Kudos goes to Stan Ostashen, a Ledger artist, who created a guide to the newspaper’s website.

If you missed Sunday’s Ledger you may not realize the paper wants to kill your favorite comic. No, not Michael Richards. The funny ones — with the little speech balloons. Actually, they’re talking a poll to choose which comics to eliminate. You can vote, but you must have an official ballot. Get one in Thursday or Saturday’s paper. One vote per person. Those of you wishing to vote for Lil’ Abner have been picking up the wrong paper for years.

The Bad:

The scatter shot reporting on the Polk County Rail Hub. That’s all I’m saying on that subject.

The Ugly:

And this brings us to a blog column written by Tom Palmer. I like reading his columns on the environment, but I wonder what burr caused this:

I suppose you can complain about Orlando’s initative in getting commuter rail and getting rid of rail-related traffic problems, possibly at Lakeland’s expense, as has been done by the Downtown Lakeland Partnership and The Tampa Tribune (sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart). — Another Orlando CSX report

The italics are mine to highlight the catty remark contained in Palmer’s prose. He’s making a poorly veiled reference to the fact that Tribune reporter Billy Townsend is married to to DLP Executive Director Julie Townsend. It isn’t news to anyone. Townsend, the reporter, states so in every post he’s made about the DLP.

I don’t get which way Palmer is shaking his yellow quill. Does he feel Townsend, J. merely echoes what she gets from Townsend, B? It’s 2007. We are long past the time when wives were expected to mimic their husband’s views. Or has Palmer tossed out a claim that Townsend, B’s reporting isn’t free of bias? In either case, I’m going out on a limb and chalking it up to professional jealousy. CSX has been the Tribune’s story for months, and I don’t think our hometown newspaper wants to commit the resources to catch up.

But wait, there’s more:

The same day that Palmer tossed his barb, political columnist Bill Rufty wrote this:

CSX, whose relationship with high-speed rail opponent Gov. Jeb Bush has been chronicled in several news stories by the Tampa Tribune, was no friend of the high-speed rail system.

Again, italics mine. This time to highlight how to give a nod to a rival paper that has done a fine job.

Stay tuned next time when we’ll remake The Philadelphia Story.