Saturday, February 18, 2006

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Spent the day petitioning. Great results. There is much awareness in this community that a toxic cloud hangs over the Gray Town Council. In fact, a predictable trend played out: the closer someone followed the town scene, the more enthusiastic they were about recall. Foster & Co. seem utterly unaware of the depth of feeling their abusive behavior has induced among the citizens of Gray. This is what happens when a closeminded group talks only amongst itself.

There was one ugly incident: a petitioner was harassed at the Gray Public Library by Elizabeth Prata and her pack of flying monkeys. According to the petitioner and eyewitnesses, the petitioner was seated at a small table near the librarian's desk, obviously with permission. Fran and Jim Monroe arrived and began a grilling about petitioner's location, furniture, even if petitioner had gotten town council's permission to be there. Monroes clearly not interested in signing, and their badgering prevented library patrons from access to the petitioner during a busy time. Shortly afterward, Prata and Jeanne Adams arrived. Prata photographed petitioner, asked about permission to be there, challenged petitioner on merits of recall and became increasingly hostile and argumentative. The exchange took about ten minutes. Obviously, Prata also had no intention of signing the petition.

About a half hour later, Prata returned and copied the names of individual signers from the petitioner's petition, which contained 16 or 17 names at the time. Petitioner was unaware that Prata had no right to do this.

Note to petitioners:

You do not need to show a petition to anyone except the person signing the petition. You do not need the Gray Town Council's or Elizabeth Prata's permission to circulate a petition anywhere or anytime. You do not need to answer their questions, or anybody else's questions, or even talk to them, about anything. So long as you do not obstruct access or interfere with normal operations, you do not need to clear your petitioning efforts with anyone except the owner/manager of a private venue. If anyone tries to obtain the information on your petition without your permission, or attempts to intimidate you, or interferes with your ability to lawfully collect signatures in any way, that person is violating your civil rights and breaking several remarkably popular state and federal statutes. If you feel that your right to collect signatures anywhere or anytime in the town of Gray is being unlawfully restricted in any way, please remember three little numbers: 911.

Note to Elizabeth Prata and flying monkeys:

Your harassment has been duly noted. If you call the petition signers whose names you copied without permission and badger them about their decision to sign the Upham recall petition, or if you distribute those names for the same purpose, or if you attempt to de-legitimize a single one of these freely-given signatures in any way, your actions will be met with the strongest possible legal response.

OK then. You'll find me at the dump tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Ethics smethics - a news reporter becomes a news maker

The actions of The Monument newspaper Editor Elizabeth Prata over the past year show that a news reporter has become a news maker.

Starting with an email dated Dec. 17, 2004, in which she pointed out to Town Council member Gary Foster several apparent errors in the proposed Town of Gray budget, Prata steps beyond the ethical bounds spelled out by the Society of Professional Journalists. Prata has said in the past that she follows the ethics code of the SPJ.

The ethical code presented by the SPJ is voluntary, and many newspapers have created their own ethics guidelines. Such guidelines are used by writers and editors in determining when their reporting goes beyond mere statement of facts and into the realm of news creation.

Under the heading of “Seek Truth and Report It”, the SPJ states that journalists should “Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent
error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.”

SPJ Ethics Committee Chairman Gary Hill said in a telephone interview that it is acceptable for a reporter to make a statement of fact to a source and ask that source if the statement is accurate. “It’s a method I use myself,” he said.

However, Prata never requests a response from Foster in her December e-mail, leaving the appearance that she is providing information to Foster. In providing this information but not stating so in articles about the budget, Prata gives the appearance she is attempting to influence Foster. In its code of ethics, the SPJ admonishes its members to “Act Indpendently. Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.”

Hill said there is no discipline of membership for violations of the code.

The New York Times recently struggled with a similar issue when a reporter failed to fully reveal her notes relating to the public release of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame’s name.

At a Town Council meeting in October, Foster said the newest Community Economic Development Committee member Jeanne Adams would be giving the town council a report on the town website.

Adams runs Gray Dove Printing on Main Street and shares office space with Prata, as well as helping to layout The Monument. She also writes and takes photographs for The Monument.

The council members discussed resurrecting the town website committee with a single member who recently volunteered to take on the task of revising the site, Michael Salvetti. He is Prata’s ex-husband.

After discussion among the council members, Denise Duda said she would take on the task of creating a charge for the website committee. Duda worked for Prata as an intern for three months early in 2005. She completed her internship before her election to the town council in June.

Prata sent an email to the town council members on Aug. 3 in which she found fault with Berkowitz for the use of the photograph that is presently found on the home page of the newly-updated site. She started the email with the words, “I am speaking as a citizen of the town of Gray.” But her email was signed “Elizabeth Prata, The Monument Newspaper.”

The use of that particular signature on her email, along with the recent presentation of the website report by her associate and the volunteering of her ex-husband to be on the website committee, clearly shows a conflict of interest.

The SPJ’s ethics code states journalists should “Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.”

Adams was emphatic in her assertion that the website report was her own creation. She said no one helped her write the report. The home-page photograph received only a one-line mention in Adam’s report.

Ethics smethics.

Nathan Tsukroff

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Monument unveils new ad campaign

No wonder they call it Pravda.

Monday, February 13, 2006

"We'll tell you what to think"

Gary Foster, illustrious Chair of the Gray Town Council, read a statement at the beginning of last week's council meeting. He called for decorum and courtesy during meetings. He found fault with the infamous "finger" incident, and said interuptions while someone is speaking will not be tolerated.
We then heard from the two Monroes, who villified our side for standing up for what we believe is right.
Curiously, Foster didn't allow anyone to speak in favor of the CEDC at the previous meeting.
Recently, Elizabeth Prata, illustrious editor of The Monument, issued an edict that not only will she no longer publish articles or letters to the editor that are sent to "other publications," but now she won't even publish a letter if the writer sends another publication a letter on the same subject! Talk about limiting free speech!
Listen up, Gray - when we want your opinion, we'll tell you what to think!
Nathan Tsukroff


Sunday, February 12, 2006

Blog proves it's a voice for the people

It's interesting to read the comments from readers of this blog. The sheer volume of comments proves we are a success, and that people are reading and responding.

Here, we get both sides of the issue. And it's quite fun to read the back and forth between the two sides.

The anonymity of the comments allows all to speak without fear of retribution.

In fact, Prata found our blog so good, she has paid us the ultimate compliment by copying us! You'll find her blog at You go girl! You've proved we're leading the way to a better Gray.

Nathan Tsukroff

Catchy tune

For some reason I can't get this tune out of my head.