Monday, August 3, 2015

'Journalist/editor' Margaret Menge's "New York attitude" and unethical, unprofessional reporting of woman's death in Lake Worth, FL

[Below is another example in a long line of Margaret Menge's unprofessional and unethical 'news' stories; next up, her terrible treatment of Mr. Erilas' untimely death.]

From a story by Brian Montopoli at CBS News on November 30, 2005 titled, "The Community Meets The Cosmopolitan";
A story Monday [Link no longer works] in the Boston Phoenix by Mark Jurkowitz shined some light on the issue. It's the tale of a reporter named Margaret Menge, who had contributed to U.S. News & World Report, the New York Press, and the New York Observer, and who took a job a few months ago at the Union Leader, in Manchester, New Hampshire. Eight weeks later, she was asked to resign. She told Jurkowitz that the managing editor for news told her that she came to the paper "with a New York attitude. We do community journalism here."
[later in the article. . .]
     Spending some time at a small town media outlet might, if nothing else, temper in an ambitious reporter some of the condescension that Rosen [New York University Associate Professor of Journalism Jay Rosensays infects the cosmopolitan media. "Elite journalists want to believe that their counterparts in Des Moines or Oxford, Ohio are under pressure to print good news," he says. But Rosen says it's more complicated than that. He dismisses such an attitude as the "sentimental, self-flattering view of the elite."
     "In somewhere like Birmingham or whatever it's hard to think of yourself as not a part of the community," he says. "When you are in that situation the journalism you do and can do and want to do is just different. And to describe that as good news versus bad news or boosterism versus truthtelling is just a load of crap."
Consider this synopsis of Margaret Menge's career in "community journalism":
  • 2005: asked to resign from community newspaper in New Hampshire
  • 2007: forced out of job at community newspaper in New York State
  • 2010: details unclear but she left community newspaper in Key West, FL, on not the best of terms
  • 2012: starts short-lived "community blog" in Lake Worth, FL
  • 2015: starts her own "community newspaper" in Lake Worth, FL
This is how Community Journalism is defined in Wikipedia:

At the Emerging Mind of Community Journalism conference, participants created a list characterizing community journalism: community journalism is intimate, caring, and personal; it reflects the community and tells its stories; and it embraces a leadership role.
     “If you want more of a definition, I’m afraid it’s like when someone asked Louie Armstrong for a definition of jazz. The great Satchmo is reputed to have replied something like this: ‘Man, if you have to ask, it won’t do me any good to try to explain.’ You know community journalism when you see it; it is the heartbeat of American journalism, journalism in its natural state.” –Jock Lauterer
Now come to the line I don't want to cross but will, reluctantly. There's no better way to prove Margaret Menge is NOT a 'community journalist', nor a caring journalist and nor a caring resident in our City of Lake Worth: I'm referring to the terribly sad incident that happened to a young lady on Tuesday, March 10th.

There were many things happening that day in the City (it was Election Day) including a rumor that something terrible had happened at the Lucerne building early that morning. I received several calls and the details began to emerge: a young lady had fallen from the building and passed away. It was truly shocking to many people, myself included.

What no one expected was a story to appear in Margaret Menge's 'community newspaper' above-the-fold, on the front page, which included a picture of the family's condo highlighted with a white circle. It takes a truly thoughtless, uncaring mind to do such a thing to a grieving family. My heart truly grieves for their loss and for the terrible treatment they received from Ms. Menge. She published this story on Friday, March 13 in Vol. 1, Issue 9 of her newspaper.

I did research on the subject of journalism and how suicide (or if it's believed a suicide occurred) should be reported by a professional journalist: There is no ambiguity: when an incident such as this occurs and the person is not a public figure then the grieving family trumps the public's right to know. Period.
Menge published this picture of the deceased woman holding her child on the front page of here tabloid. I obscured the names and faces.
In other words, what Ms. Menge did was absolutely wrong by any standard of professional journalism. And it's absolutely not subject matter that should appear in any responsible Community Newspaper.

And it gets worse.

One week later, on March 20th, in Ms. Menge's Vol. 1, Issue 10, she continues this maltreatment of the grieving family in her editorial page. She published this correspondence with Teri Barbera, PBSO media relations:
     "I [Margaret Menge] need something that says what happened, to whom, where, when. . . This cannot be withheld under Chapter 119 F.S. Not in any other state, either."
While the family was still grieving their loss, Ms. Menge was trolling for a story. Is this what you call "community journalism" or a fascination with the macabre?

Here are FIVE HEADLINES in a true community newspaper here in Lake Worth, The Lake Worth Herald (its One Hundred & third Year, Issue 12):
  • LW Lifeguards...LW Heroes
  • Hudson Holding’s Principal Steven Michael Addresses Bryant Park Neighborhood Assn.
  • Pride Fest Celebration This Weekend In LW
  • FDOT To Begin Stormwater Improvement Project In LW
  • Part 3 Birthday Cake Castle - Red Cross Designers’ Show House 
In conclusion I offer this quote:
         "SPJ’s Code of Ethics tells journalists that they have an obligation to report the truth. They also have an obligation in minimizing the harm that’s done in the pursuit of that truth. When it comes to suicides, a careful and deliberate moral reasoning needs to take place aside from the First Amendment right to report.
         Families don’t care about your rights when they are grieving. That’s why compassionate and responsible journalism is necessary and why cautious deliberation is needed."

    —Kevin Z. Smith, Deputy Director, The Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism