Campaign contributions article misleads readers

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As a former TimesLedger columnist, I have higher expectations of their reporters than last week's article "Friedrich 2nd in Money Race for Weprin's Seat."

A journalist's job is to report news, not create it. When your reporter reports on fund-raising and cherry-picks information to suggest a perception of impropriety, he is no longer reporting the story, but creating it.

Omitting significant facts and implying nefarious connections between contributors and candidates is sloppy journalism. Readers are entitled to read the facts and draw their own conclusions, but by selectively omitting significant ones, the reporter failed his readers and himself as a reporter.

In his article, the staffer reported on two contributors out of almost 300 from the Friedrich campaign. He then tempted the reader to presume a connection between those contributors and doing business with Glen Oaks Village, a co-op of which I am president and which adheres to the highest standards of ethics and integrity.

By not disclosing that my campaign was No. 1 with the largest number of individual contributors for a Queens City Council race, he leaves the reader with no context in which to view these two contributions.

By not disclosing that my campaign raised more small-sized donations from a larger base of local supporters than my opponents and all but a handful of other Queens Council candidates, the reporter created an impression that most of my contributions were from business owners, when in fact very few were.

The reporter made much of the fact that one of the two contributors he reported on worked for National Cooperative Bank, which provided the underlying mortgage to Glen Oaks Village.

What he failed to mention was that this bank specializes exclusively in co-ops and provided the most favorable terms for our co-op residents among competing banks. More importantly, he failed to mention that the mortgage was transacted years ago before I was ever a candidate.

The reporter also highlighted a $500 contribution from the owner of the company that installed pre-fabricated modular units into some Glen Oaks apartments. This attempt by the reporter to raise eyebrows omits the fact that it is the individual co-op owner and not Glen Oaks Village who transacts business with the company.

In fact, the only role Glen Oaks Village plays is to ensure that all construction work is done properly and strictly adheres to local zoning codes. But at least the reporter got it right when he mentioned that this company is not the only one approved to do similar work in Glen Oaks Village.

Competition is as fundamental to good business as honest reporting is to accurate journalism.

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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