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Thread: I Wonder Why?

  1. #1
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    Default I Wonder Why?

    For the first time in recent memory, and perhaps ever, Wayalnd eNews put out their newsletter for the week on Sunday (http://campaign.constantcontact.com/...Zj8YyrQ_fZQ%3D) instead of Monday.

    In the second paragraph, the following was written:

    "Amendments thus far incorporated into Article 5's Capital Budget are elimination of the following: the new Bath House, the paving of the North Cemetery, and the Water Department's Network Meters Reading System. The gavel not having been pounded at the end of Article 5, that article remains open for amendments and further debate. Among items not yet addressed is the School Department's Capital Request. A presentation on that request is available online here (detailed information is available here). The warrant is available online here. WaylandeNews maintained a real-time update of events at Town Meeting, and this recap is available here."

    Given the numerous e-mails sent out by SOS, their supporters, and at least one member of the WSC over the weekend, using "sky is falling" language about what is to transpire on Monday, I find it interesting that a newsletter that purports to be unbiased has taken this unusual step. Isn't this type of stuff exactly what people accuse WVN of all the time?

    Interested in the thoughts of the DF readers...

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    Jeff, we sent the email on Sunday rather than Monday to inform people about Town Meeting, and to remind them to plan for Monday should they wish to attend. Voter participation has been a passion of mine since my tenure as Voter Services Chair of the League of Women Voters of Wayland.

    Your phrase "purports to be unbiased" suggests that you found this newsletter to be biased. Could you please point to specific language that you found biased?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    Jeff, we sent the email on Sunday rather than Monday to inform people about Town Meeting, and to remind them to plan for Monday should they wish to attend. Voter participation has been a passion of mine since my tenure as Voter Services Chair of the League of Women Voters of Wayland.

    Your phrase "purports to be unbiased" suggests that you found this newsletter to be biased. Could you please point to specific language that you found biased?
    Kim, the paragraph I pasted in above is the biased part of the newsletter, in my reading of it. Here it is again:

    "Amendments thus far incorporated into Article 5's Capital Budget are elimination of the following: the new Bath House, the paving of the North Cemetery, and the Water Department's Network Meters Reading System. The gavel not having been pounded at the end of Article 5, that article remains open for amendments and further debate. Among items not yet addressed is the School Department's Capital Request. A presentation on that request is available online here (detailed information is available here). The warrant is available online here. WaylandeNews maintained a real-time update of events at Town Meeting, and this recap is available here."

    It specifically points out the school department's request and points readers to the presentation supporting the capital request. This would not be so biased, if this came out on its normal schedule (Monday morning) and didn't follow the SOS e-mail blasts, the blasts of their supporters and the blast from at least one member of the WSC talking about how people are hijacking the meeting. This understated bias is what people accuse WVN all the time. I see this as no different.

    Free world for sure, but let's own up to the intent of our actions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    [The newsletter] specifically points out the school department's request and points readers to the presentation supporting the capital request. This would not be so biased, if this came out on its normal schedule (Monday morning) and didn't follow the SOS e-mail blasts, the blasts of their supporters and the blast from at least one member of the WSC talking about how people are hijacking the meeting. This understated bias is what people accuse WVN all the time. I see this as no different.

    Free world for sure, but let's own up to the intent of our actions.
    Jeff, this is not bias, it's pointers to information that helps people learn about what they are voting on. This same newsletter also contained links to the proponent sites for Articles 6, 12, 15, 16, 21, 22 and 23 (if I had known of links to any other article sites, I'd have included them as well). Of the capital items, we focused on the school request only because that's the only significant remaining capital item as yet unaddressed.

    If you'd prefer not to be informed, then please hit the "Unsubscribe" link you will find at the bottom of every newsletter.

    Yes, let's own up to the intent of our actions. My intent is to inform and educate. And yours?

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    This is not a response to Jeff Baron. I just wanted to clarify a few things.

    1. In past years Waylandenews has sent newsletters out of cycle during Town Meeting season. Those newsletters listed the voting results of the meeting that was most recently held, and discussed which of the articles may be voted at the following meeting that were receiving the most public attention. My recall is that the newsletters also contained links to information about the articles to be voted to the extent it was available.

    2. I do not recall whether we have ever combined election results newsletters with our regular newsletter in the past, but (as in this case) I suspect that we would have if it was practical to do so. There is no reason not to, and it is an opportunity to save Kim some work - and if she is doing that then it makes sense to send it out a little early so that voters have the information sooner than the morning of TM night and will have time to review it.

    3. I believe there is one minor error in the newsletter that does not bear sending out a correction but is worth mentioning here. Kim states that among the items to be discussed in Article 5 is the educational technology line item. That is in fact the only line item in Article 5 left to be discussed from the debt exclusion, unless other items are reconsidered (and I hope they are not - Thursday night was painful enough). A regular point made by speakers at last Thursday's TM was that there was not enough information provided to the voters on other matters in order to make a decision. Given that sentiment, it is entirely appropriate to provide more information linked to the newsletter for voters who wish to review it.

    4. Not that it is even relevant, but I understand that the SOS email Jeff Baron refers to was sent out two days ago. I have not seen anything from any School Committee member. I suppose that a person can perceive a link between events, but that does not mean that they are actually linked.
    Last edited by Ian Hecker; 05-16-2010 at 10:15 PM. Reason: Further clarification to the clarification.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    Jeff, this is not bias, it's pointers to information that helps people learn about what they are voting on. This same newsletter also contained links to the proponent sites for Articles 6, 12, 15, 16, 21, 22 and 23 (if I had known of links to any other article sites, I'd have included them as well). Of the capital items, we focused on the school request only because that's the only significant remaining capital item as yet unaddressed.

    If you'd prefer not to be informed, then please hit the "Unsubscribe" link you will find at the bottom of every newsletter.

    Yes, let's own up to the intent of our actions. My intent is to inform and educate. And yours?
    Let me start with one key point...I have no problem with most of the SC technology request (except the $25K for the SCI).

    So, my intent had nothing to do with that. My intent was to point out how bias is perceived and acknowledge it occurs on all side of the spectrum. The thread right below this slams WVN for producing newsletters with a bias. I saw this as the same thing. It pushes a particular item with a favorable presentation (twice), with peculiar timing compared to the normal pattern of delivery. Like I said, free country. But it is no different than what WVN does when reporting the news in their newsletters with their particular biases. They deliver their newsletter with a quiet spin. I believe this is what this particular newsletter does as well in relation to TM (the rest is largely factual/non-editorialized and useful for the reporting of events and happenings around town).

    In response to Ian's last post (which is a response to this thread that I created, but claims not to be???), I believe there is still a $510k capital request from the DPW for 'C&L Stonebridge Rd.' that has been unaddressed. I have no idea what this is, but it constitutes a sum almost as large as the school technology request. I didn't see it mentioned and it apears to at least be significant from a dollar perspective as well.

    Also, I did not name the SC member who sent out a blast to a group of residents because he does not participate in this forum. Trying to abide by the rules here...

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    Default WSC.org and Debt Exclusion and SC email blast

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    Also, I did not name the SC member who sent out a blast to a group of residents because he does not participate in this forum. Trying to abide by the rules here...
    Its a small cyber world. That SC member email blast was forwarded and ultimately made it to me. The letter clearly focuses on the school technology issue and is 'sort of a call to arms' for attendance. That being said, that SC member has an absolute right to do that."

    One of the issues that I'm struggling with is the email sent out by the WaylandSchoolCommittee.org which gave details of the debt exclusion override occuring the next day and then asked for a 'favorable vote'.

    WaylandSchoolCommittee.org (a privately owned and run site) is recognized as the official website of the school committee by the OCPF and that is for two reasons:
    1. The website holds itself out as the official site of the committee and
    2. There is no other website which holds itself out as the official site of the committee.

    Therefore, no matter who owns that site or whether its privately funded or not, it comes under the same rules and restrictions as if it were sourced by the town itself and funded by the town itself. This was clearly explained to me by the OCPF over a year ago (and there are threads on enews which discuss this ad-nauseum).

    The problem I'm having is that an official town governmental site would normally be barred from asking for a YES or NO on a ballot question.

    The email says "favorable vote". What is a "favorable vote"? I interpret this as as asking for a YES. So to me, it crossed the line.
    Anybody out there wants to commnent on this? Jeff Dieffenbach are you still in Wayland? Haven't seen or heard from you in a while.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    Its a small cyber world. That SC member email blast was forwarded and ultimately made it to me. The letter clearly focuses on the school technology issue and is 'sort of a call to arms' for attendance. That being said, that SC member has an absolute right to do that.
    No issues here, Alan. In case it was at all unclear, everyone I mentioned has a right to send out these e-mails. The ONLY purpose of mentioning all the e-mails from SOS, their followers, SC member was to put the right context around the thread. Like I said, the eNews e-mail was well within its rights too. It just had a clear bias and appeared as part of an "all-out" strategy, at least to me. That is what I was pointing out.

    Quote Originally Posted by KimReichelt View Post
    If you'd prefer not to be informed, then please hit the "Unsubscribe" link you will find at the bottom of every newsletter.
    I neglected this point last night. I like being informed. In fact, I like this newsletter a lot as I believe it provides a valuable service to folks who read it in that one is aware of all the goings on around town that they might not otherwise be aware of. I commend Kim for putting in all the time every week to assemble it. Just because I point out a bias in it doesn't mean I deleted it. In the spirit of civility, I think suggesting I just go pound sand if I don't agree does not seem to foster agreeable disagreement.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    My intent was to point out how bias is perceived and acknowledge it occurs on all side of the spectrum. The thread right below this slams WVN for producing newsletters with a bias. I saw this as the same thing.
    Jeff, as you know, perception and reality are often not the same. People perceive things through their own rose-colored (or distorting) glasses. As I can't affect how you perceive things, I can only work on affecting my own reality. I, and my colleagues, make every effort to be fair and balanced. When we receive a useful suggestion, we do our best to act on it. We act in good faith, and nothing we can do can ever make you believe that. If we do ever introduce bias, we are human, and we do actually have our own biases. But we do our best not to introduce them into the newsletter or website, and I think our efforts have been extraordinarily in this regard.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    I believe there is still a $510k capital request from the DPW for 'C&L Stonebridge Rd.' that has been unaddressed. I have no idea what this is, but it constitutes a sum almost as large as the school technology request. I didn't see it mentioned and it apears to at least be significant from a dollar perspective as well.
    I understood that we were taking the articles in order, and clearly we already addressed line item 13 (which is a higher number than the 12 assigned to C&L Stonebridge Rd. Though I will admit that there seem to be two 12s, both 12s are lower than 13 :-) Having already addressed 15 as well (which was grouped in with 12), I thought that the only major thing left was the Technology.

    Of course, I also noted that ALL of the items are potentially still open for discussion.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    I like this newsletter a lot as I believe it provides a valuable service to folks who read it in that one is aware of all the goings on around town that they might not otherwise be aware of. I commend Kim for putting in all the time every week to assemble it. Just because I point out a bias in it doesn't mean I deleted it. In the spirit of civility, I think suggesting I just go pound sand if I don't agree does not seem to foster agreeable disagreement.
    Thank you. I am glad you appreciate the newsletter. I would never suggest you "pound sand" if you don't agree with me on something. I might suggest you pound sand (though I think I would put it more politely than that) if you try to make us look bad when you have no valid basis for it.

    My opinion: A good response to my and Ian's answers to you might have been something like, "That makes sense. I now understand why you sent the email when you did, and appreciate your efforts", rather than continuing to assert there is bias.

    The reason we started this newsletter was to help people be informed. I believe informed people make better decisions. I like to put it all out there, let people read as much as they like, and hope they will feel more prepared to participate in our democracy. And you might note, of course, that the information we provide is equally as much reminder to both those who support and those who do not support the articles in question.

    Before you continue your bias claim, consider this question: Do you think it would be better for us to have provided less information or to have made the information available in a less timely manner?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    Jeff, as you know, perception and reality are often not the same. People perceive things through their own rose-colored (or distorting) glasses. As I can't affect how you perceive things, I can only work on affecting my own reality. I, and my colleagues, make every effort to be fair and balanced. When we receive a useful suggestion, we do our best to act on it. We act in good faith, and nothing we can do can ever make you believe that. If we do ever introduce bias, we are human, and we do actually have our own biases. But we do our best not to introduce them into the newsletter or website, and I think our efforts have been extraordinarily in this regard.
    I completely agree. You are human and you have biases. In this case, I believe you introduced them. This is not just my perception, but that of others who saw the newsletter. You disagree. OK. I believe the folks at WVN have the same position every time they are accused of the very same thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    I understood that we were taking the articles in order, and clearly we already addressed line item 13 (which is a higher number than the 12 assigned to C&L Stonebridge Rd. Though I will admit that there seem to be two 12s, both 12s are lower than 13 :-) Having already addressed 15 as well (which was grouped in with 12), I thought that the only major thing left was the Technology.

    Of course, I also noted that ALL of the items are potentially still open for discussion.
    Yes, but the C&L Stonebridge Rd. item was not called out. Like I said, I don't even know what it is. However, it appears that t would deserve almost equal billing if you're calling out major items left for discussion,

    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    Thank you. I am glad you appreciate the newsletter. I would never suggest you "pound sand" if you don't agree with me on something. I might suggest you pound sand (though I think I would put it more politely than that) if you try to make us look bad when you have no valid basis for it.

    My opinion: A good response to my and Ian's answers to you might have been something like, "That makes sense. I now understand why you sent the email when you did, and appreciate your efforts", rather than continuing to assert there is bias.
    Well geez, Kim, I can only address your response since Ian seemed to go out of his way to say he wasn't responding to me

    I see your point of view. I don't agree that it was unbiased, but I certainly see your point of view.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    The reason we started this newsletter was to help people be informed. I believe informed people make better decisions. I like to put it all out there, let people read as much as they like, and hope they will feel more prepared to participate in our democracy. And you might note, of course, that the information we provide is equally as much reminder to both those who support and those who do not support the articles in question.

    Before you continue your bias claim, consider this question: Do you think it would be better for us to have provided less information or to have made the information available in a less timely manner?
    It wouldn't have been better or worse. You have the right to put anything you want into that newsletter. My continued poinit is that you (and everyone) should own up to their biases. You are entitled to them, and since your newsletter is privately owned and run, you have the privilege of including those biases in whatever you distribute.

    Waylandschoolcommittee.org is wrong, in my opinion, based on the e-mail that Alan discusses. I actually have not seen that one. In that case, there is an independent arbiter (OCPF) to determine if they or not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    Its a small cyber world. That SC member email blast was forwarded and ultimately made it to me. The letter clearly focuses on the school technology issue and is 'sort of a call to arms' for attendance. That being said, that SC member has an absolute right to do that."

    One of the issues that I'm struggling with is the email sent out by the WaylandSchoolCommittee.org which gave details of the debt exclusion override occuring the next day and then asked for a 'favorable vote'.

    WaylandSchoolCommittee.org (a privately owned and run site) is recognized as the official website of the school committee by the OCPF and that is for two reasons:
    1. The website holds itself out as the official site of the committee and
    2. There is no other website which holds itself out as the official site of the committee.

    Therefore, no matter who owns that site or whether its privately funded or not, it comes under the same rules and restrictions as if it were sourced by the town itself and funded by the town itself. This was clearly explained to me by the OCPF over a year ago (and there are threads on enews which discuss this ad-nauseum).

    The problem I'm having is that an official town governmental site would normally be barred from asking for a YES or NO on a ballot question.

    The email says "favorable vote". What is a "favorable vote"? I interpret this as as asking for a YES. So to me, it crossed the line.
    Anybody out there wants to commnent on this? Jeff Dieffenbach are you still in Wayland? Haven't seen or heard from you in a while.
    Not to fear, Alan. Jeff D. is alive and reading the DF. He e-mailed me offline (he is somewhere where he has phone access only and cannot access the DF) and offered this response to the WSC.org information you outlined above (I've posted this using the quote function to make it clear this is from Jeff D., and not posted from me):

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffDieffenbach View Post
    OCPF opinion is that wsc.org is in the right, as posted on another thread (I don't have DF access from my phone).
    1. WSC is not publicly funded
    2. WSC sends no unsolicited email
    3. WSC sends only occasional BQ-related e-mail

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    Not to fear, Alan. Jeff D. is alive and reading the DF. He e-mailed me offline (he is somewhere where he has phone access only and cannot access the DF) and offered this response to the WSC.org information you outlined above (I've posted this using the quote function to make it clear this is from Jeff D., and not posted from me):
    Boy is there confusion here.... and I guess I'll have to follow up with the OCPF on this one.
    The WSC.org is the OFFICIAL SITE of the WSC and all OCPF rules apply to it.
    When the debt exclusion email was sent out it asked for a 'favorable vote' thats asking for a YES.
    Government websites are not supposed to be used for this....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    My continued poinit is that you (and everyone) should own up to their biases. You are entitled to them, and since your newsletter is privately owned and run, you have the privilege of including those biases in whatever you distribute.
    Jeff, I am quite certain that at this point I have "owned up" to having biases. I love dark chocolate, and think milk chocolate is cheap candy for kids. I hate beer. I like strawberries, but think papaya is only any good if dried. I like open space and birds, dislike Hummers and over-sized SUVs and I love Wayland. These are biases, each of which affect my decision-making from day to day. By the way the following other people all have biases: Jeff Baron, Jeff Dieffenbach, Stephen Spielberg, Gary Burton, Ellen Degeneres, Ian, Larry and Steve, everyone who has ever written for WVN, Peter Gossels, Lou Russell, Larry, Curly and Moe (unless the last three are all dead, in which case they used to have biases). We all have biases. Bias isn't a dirty word, it's a reality.

    The trick is to try to restrain your biases when you are trying to inform rather than influence people. I, and my colleagues, work hard on this.

    So back to yesterday's newsletter. Apologies, but I am still having trouble with where you found bias. I see the bit about providing information about the School's Capital Budget request, I see the bit about sending it out a day early (since it was ready, and it seemed like it would be useful for people to have the information in time to make use of it before Town Meeting). I see the bit about all the other articles. Yeah, we missed the Stonebridge item, not sure how it got skipped over at TM. That was unintentional, but I don't see how it demonstrates bias.

    So far as I can tell your only "evidence" is
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    [The newsletter] specifically points out the school department's request and points readers to the presentation supporting the capital request. This would not be so biased, if this came out on its normal schedule (Monday morning) and didn't follow the SOS e-mail blasts, the blasts of their supporters and the blast from at least one member of the WSC talking about how people are hijacking the meeting.
    OK, so there's no issue with unnecessary adjectives (if so, where? which?) or excessive or omitted information (other than the inadvertent Stonebridge capital item omission) . So it sounds like your only issue really is timing -- "it followed the SOS e-mail blasts, the blasts of their supporters and the blast from at least one member of the WSC".

    I fail to see how I or WEN can control all these emails, or why they should influence what we do. Further, I will note that I never received a "blast" from any member of the WSC or "their supporters", and I was not even aware of them. I had received a "blast" from WVN.

    So I think you're saying that because SOS and WVN sent out their newsletters, WEN should not have sent out ours? That strikes me as a non-sequitor. Seriously, if that is the very best you can do at pointing out newsletter biases, then I think that the Editorial Board and I have achieved newsletter sainthood. I think I've said all that needs saying at this point, so take the last word if you need it.

    In conclusion, here is the bias that I will own up to in this instance:
    I want people to go to Town Meeting and I want them to go informed. Guilty as charged.

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