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Board needs cheese to go with the whine

July 16, 2002

Finally, the Washington County School Board came out and said what needed to be said: The reason that three of four members are not seeking re-election, and the reason that only three new candidates have filed for the office, can be directly attributed to poor manners on the part of the press.

I've been saying that for years, and in this spirit I would like to announce that I am washing my hands of my colleagues and their bias toward reporting the facts and hereby pledge a kinder, gentler approach that has been sorely lacking.

Sure the media reports the news, but where's the love? What ever happened to blind acceptance of everything a public official says and the gratitude they deserve for performing a difficult service?

"I had people say ... they would not want to put up with the criticism of The Herald-Mail," said the lovely and talented Bernadette Wagner.

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Board member Herb Hardin correctly noted that "The public says they don't want to go through what we went through. The print media has really been harsh on the Board of Education."

So he's running for County Commissioner instead, where the commissioners will tell you the commentary is nothing but petrified fact.

And really, there is plenty we as a journalistic profession can do to promote a "more positive" atmosphere. Like we could have spun these actual quotes and stories this way:

"I personally am not in favor of three-fourths of our own recommendations. We are out in left field and we don't know if the ball game has started yet," board president Hardin said lucidly.

Or, the board meeting wasn't advertised as a meeting so it wasn't a meeting, board member Ed Forrest explained satisfactorily.

Or, the board voted down a consolidation plan because, as board member Wagner said, "it didn't have the democratic process in it." So the board appointed a 50-person committee to study redistricting, then understandably voted down its recommendations as well, probably because it was TOO democratic.

Or, in keeping with the board's much-celebrated efforts to "improve communication," teachers have rightly been ordered not to talk to the press.

You know, just the little journalistic touches that say we care.

If there was any doubt as to the validity of the Washington County Board of Hurt Feelings' position, it's cleared up in last Sunday's Opinion section, in which it said a recent Herald-Mail position was "lowbrow, sneering, ignorant, malicious, distorted and destructive."

Why? Because we accused the board of trying to circumvent redistricting results. Board members wrote - and I swear this is true - they were not circumventing, they were finding "an alternative."

The difference being that while "circumventions" are lowbrow, sneering, ignorant, malicious, distorted and destructive, "alternatives" are highbrow, grinning, enlightened, gracious and dead-on accurate.

And do we give credit to schools? No, we "willfully ignore what a strong public school system Washington County has," the board writes. And a sampling of some recent headlines is proof:

  • Springfield chorus, Hicks band 'superior' - Page 1

  • County sixth in test scores - Page 1

  • Bester teacher is county's best - Page 1

  • Paramount music teacher honored - Page 1

  • Old Forge student wins top Md. reading award- Page 1

  • Award-winning South High student up to the challenge - Page 1

  • Most kindergartners meet Maryland standards - Page 1

  • Dog attacks thr - whoops, best forget that one.



But the point is, The Herald-Mail "willfully ignores" positive news. Except for me.

Anyone can tell you that I deliberately ignore it.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or e-mail him at timr@herald-mail.com.

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