Beachcomber failed to provide context in editorial on park district | Letter to the Editor
January 15, 2013 · Updated 12:41 PM
The recent Beachcomber editorial about the park board retreat (“The park district and the power of the spoken word,” Jan. 9) fails to provide a context for my comment about the press as a “whore.” I actually cited a quotation, allegedly from H. L. Mencken: “The press is a whore: you use it and it uses you.” This quotation was given to me by a former Beachcomber editor. (A google search shows that variations on this quotation are widely circulated.) I used the quote during a board discussion of unfavorable Beachcomber coverage of park board decisions made necessary by the recession, which has decimated funding for parks.
My point was to argue that we can’t control the press’s coverage of the park board, nor should we try to. The park board is understandably concerned by what we believe are unfair and non-factual Beachcomber articles, which resulted in a $10,000 additional charge to our already strained budget — a state auditor’s investigation. The investigation was initiated not by fiscal impropriety but, according to the auditor, by “excessive press coverage.”
The editorial writer did not attend the park board retreat. She relied primarily on second-hand notes and did not contact me for clarification of my intentions. The editorial is unfair to me and other park commissioners and suggests lack of professionalism.
— Bill Ameling
Editor’s note: Carol Ehlinger, audit manager for the state, said Bill Ameling called her last fall to ask why the state was auditing the park district. She told him that she had read one Beachcomber article and received information sent to her by community members that suggested there may be some risk to public funds. She said she never used the words “excessive press coverage” nor did the newspaper prompt the audit. As for Ameling’s contention that The Beachcomber’s coverage has been “non-factual,” the newspaper has been told of only one factual mistake in its coverage of the agency, a mistake it corrected in the following issue. When asked on Monday, Susan McCabe, the park district’s interim executive director, said she has not seen non-factual reporting by The Beachcomber. Finally, the newspaper could find no reference to the quote Ameling cites, either by Mencken or anyone else of note.