The Times Union has taken its anti-challenger bias to a new level. One courageous blogger has been criticizing the TU and its bias for some time now, on the Albany Media Bias blog. I haven’t blogged about it in this campaign until now, but they took it way over the top this morning.
We have been raising significant issues with the incumbents — sweetheart assessments, abuse of taxpayer money through a non-profit, zoning breaks, and of course their refusal to debate.
The TU ignored these stories. I was used to that part. This is consistent with their general policy of ignoring challengers, while writing the occasional story about incumbents.
To the extent that they covered it at all, they minimized the criticisms as “snippy attacks”. See their September 14th article, for example – the only example.
The pro-incumbent bias roared out on October 2nd with this article, which is also available here.
In these articles, the TU printed a completely uncritical story reporting what the incumbent Town Supervisor claims is no tax increase, with a very positive headline. All of it is, of course, inaccurate. The reporter was well aware of our criticisms of this very issue, but did not mention them nor did he contact us for a comment.
This happened one month before the election, and came out about the same time as the incumbents’ advertising claiming that they have not raised taxes.
The article opens with the following quote: “For the eighth consecutive year, the town’s proposed budget does not contain a tax hike.” It then continues with: “Runion … said his administration has controlled overall spending to prevent tax increases throughout his tenure.”
Ahem. Town spending is up 70% since 1999, more than double the increases seen by other area towns like Colonie. That’s according to the State Comptroller (a Democrat no less). Unless you’re drinking some kind of special Kool-Aid, you should know that spending doesn’t go up 70% without taxes going up too.
In fact, taxes have gone up. The morsel of truth in the story is that the tax rate is staying the same. But the tax base has gone up dramatically as the town has increased tax assessments. Thus town revenue from property tax is up dramatically since 1999. Taxes have gone up, even though the rate has stayed the same.
The article also says: “Guilderland’s infrastructure doesn’t need improvements now ….” This is in direct contrast to our campaign contention that the town has neglected Tawasentha Park and its pool. And again, this is just one month before the election, and while both sides are getting their message out. The TU is actively reinforcing their message and criticizing ours.
In today’s article (I’m not linking because the link will probably change) they really went over the top. They criticize us for complaining about the lack of coverage. Some quotes from the article:
“They claim that one of their Democratic opponents … won’t debate them …”
– It’s not a claim. It’s verified by the League of Women Voters and by e-mails written by our opponents themselves. And it’s not one of our opponents, but both of them. And they’ve done it for each of the last three election cycles (2003, 2005 and now 2007). All well documented and backed by evidence – but reduced to merely a claim. They also refer to our claims of improper dealings by the incumbents without any reference to the mountains of evidence.
Then they make this statement: “Gripes like these are common during an election season, but that doesn’t make them news.”
Apparently our gripes against the TU’s lack of coverage (in e-mails to the reporter and editors) is news, but the campaign issues themselves are not news.
Here is a quote from the reporter’s e-mail to me during a conversation about this:
“This is not a political story. There have been no tax increases in Guilderland and it’s my job to explain why. I know it doesn’t fit in with your political campaigning, but these are quick hit stories that look at the budget. They’re not the forum for political opponents to campaign.
My job is to write about what readers care about and they are concerned about their taxes a lot more than your campaign.”
A friend of mine calls the paper the Times Useless, but this is incorrect. The Times Union is very useful for incumbents.