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As Long as We Remember...

August 10, 2012

Bad Journalism

Roy Meachum

Attributing errors in Frederick News-Post daily stories to outside sources, or the reporters, strikes me as bush league; in my early days on The Washington Post staff, we had to verify the facts. The editor fairly accepted the responsibility for what appeared in print. The News-Post page I appeared on for 20 years is a screwed-up mess.


As many readers know, I wrote a column in The Frederick News-Post for over two decades. But that was when George Delaplaine endowed his intelligence and integrity to the local paper. In a complex family situation, he was forced to sell to his elder sibling, Frances Randall. She took part of the $750 million the cable system brought, despite her fervent opposition to building it in the first place. She bought the News-Post for her eldest child, named for his uncle, George.


The older Randall son exhibited no interest in running the property; he brought in accountant Ted Gregory. The new financial officer, with no experience in the publishing industry, fired the experienced and the talented that made the higher salaries. Because my columns sold papers, I escaped the initial slaughter – with pay cut exactly in half.


George Randall and Managing Editor Mike Powell died in rapid succession. The paper became the domain of younger brother, Myron “Billy” Randall; he spent years, I heard, in the basement of the Pentagon, running computers. By the time I transplanted from Bethesda, he was managing systems for Fire House Financials, owned by a man I met on a teachers’ picket line when I was with TV9 news. His name is Bill Floria, Sr.


A quiet and polite gentleman, Myron was descended upon by family Furies, led most of all by mother Frances. Sisters Ruth Ann and Deedee settled into offices and charged their cars to the company, which was firing the most talented and experienced, as I said. They brought in David Elliot from The Hagerstown Herald Mail who knew little about this county, adding to the newsroom’s ignorance of what was happening in the community.


Dave’s regime was very hampered by Clifford Cumber, whose sole attribute is his mild British accent; he’s considered lazy and incompetent by many in these parts. In any event, the Englishman mistakenly reported County Commissioner Mike Cady used public money for Olympic weightlifting contests at Mount St. Mary’s University gym. Several columns I rebuked reporter Cumber for twisting the truth. David Elliot ended the dialogue by hiring Joe Volz to replace me; he also had written for


That managing editor was still aboard when Publisher Myron Randall offered me a Sunday column; he was gone when I resigned in protest at his successor: The Baltimore county homeowner arrived on East Patrick Street with absolutely no newspaper experience. Her professional background was with Associated Press radio. My real bone with her? Her lack of knowledge of the county. In any event, she quickly departed.


When the publisher announced West Virginian Terry Headlee as managing editor; I wrote Myron Randall to let go of the Sunday space he said he was holding for me.


Upon retirement of the respected and award-winning editorial page editor, Lee Permenter, the managing editor appointed to his former position the English-born Cumber, who immediately set in an unfathomable whirl what Lee had done effortlessly.


The complaints that reach my aging ears have little to do with professional journalism practices; mostly they involve the deficits in community knowledge what pretends to be a community newspaper. In that light, my appreciation of George Delaplaine could be rated as understated. Frederick misses him!


Meanwhile, the editor’s custom of keeping skirts clean by blaming anyone else is simply bad journalism.


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