Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Alternate Reality Reporting of the Democrat Gazette

Even though I often express displeasure at the widespread corruption, foolishness, and general dysfunction in our state government, when I read the pages of the state's only state-wide newspaper I marvel that the situation we face is not much worse than it is.   Peering into the pages of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is often like viewing an alternate reality.    What should be up is down, and down is up.   Good is bad, and bad is good.  No wonder voters influenced by its misinformation make poor choices, and politicians influenced by its pages produce poor public policy.

One of the subjects in which I find the Democrat-Gazette is particularly discordant from reality is anything having to do with Secretary of State Mark Martin.    After watching this issue very closely for two years I have come to the conclusion, amply documented on this site, that when the subject is Mark Martin you cannot trust one single word which appears on the pages of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.  Not. One. Word.

On Monday the 28th for example, their NW Arkansas section had an prominent story with the headline "Website had glitches on first election run."  It's first paragraph said "Secretary of State Mark Martin's new nearly $400,000 election-night-reporting web-site lagged behind results reported by media outlets during Tuesday's primary election, and some counties' results were missing from it Thursday afternoon."

While the rest of the article gave Martin spokesman Alex Reed lots of space to defend against their allegations, the bottom line was the allegations were ridiculous and the headline and opening paragraph were appallingly misleading.  

I mean this just happened last week.   Many of you have, like me, been following election results for several cycles.   This last election was the very first time in my life that I followed the returns almost exclusively on the Sec. of State's website because I noticed its returns were faster, more complete, and easier to follow than the major media web sites.   This was the first time this had ever happened.  Previously I had primarily used major media websites to track results because they were faster and easier to understand than the SOS website.  The elections I was following had results reported smoother and faster than I have ever remembered it.    What the Democrat-Gazette reported in this story is exactly the opposite of what I personally experienced, ergo, they are wrong.

OK, but what about the costs?  Martin was widely and falsely accused of wasteful spending, at least until the numbers came in and proved Martin was actually operating his office quite frugally, and also proved that the Democrats were deliberately over-funding all of the state Constitutional Offices while claiming they needed more money for various programs.  So did, or will this new election reporting system "cost" the taxpayers of the state an additional $400,000?   I decided to ask Martin.   He answered, "with this software, the counties will no longer have to pay $500 per election x 75 counties, with and average of about 2 elections per county per year. So you can subtract off $225,000 of taxpayer dollars right there.."       

Martin also noted that this spending was not new spending, additional spending.  They were already spending money on election reporting.  When shifting services from one vendor to another you can't get an accurate picture just by looking at the money you are spending under the new contract without also considering if the move will allow you to reduce spending on another vendor.    The system they bought is replacing some of the services from a contract they already had with INA.   Though he could not recall off the top of his head what the exact savings might be, Martin anticipated further cost reductions from their contract with INA as a result of implementing this system.   Over the length of his term, Martin noted that he cut spending on their INA contract to the tune of millions of dollars of taxpayer savings.

That left only the complaints of the poor county worker from Newton County who was not adequately trained for her collateral duties on election night.   That was hardly the fault of the SOS office, and judging by the number of counties who quickly and accurately filed their returns seems to have been an outlier.    The same was the case in Searcy, where provisional ballots slowed things down.  

The bottom line is that the Arkansas Democrat Gazette seems to be on a mission to destroy the political career of Secretary of State Mark Martin.   It looks from here that they are willing to distort the truth farther to go after him than any other major office holder in this state.    Maybe we should start asking why.    Why is Martin, among all the names from both parties in this state they could smear, the one they smear?   


Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

I have often said that Arkansans will never have good government in this state until they quit assigning credibility to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Their recent misinformation about the recent election is another example of why that is so...

2:14 PM, May 31, 2012  

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