Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Margaret Menge and Hearsay: What is News and What is Not News

My personal favorite on-line dictionary is Here is how this on-line dictionary defines "hearsay":
1. unverified, unofficial information gained or acquired from another and not part of one's direct knowledge:
I pay no attention to hearsay.
2. an item of idle or unverified information or gossip; rumor:
a malicious hearsay.
Synonyms [of "hearsay"]
1. talk, scuttlebutt, babble, tittle-tattle.
Note that 'hearsay' is not 'journalism'. Here is the title of an article published in 2006, titled "Presidential Hearsay" and our 'Tribune editor', Margaret Menge is an important character in this story of hearsay. From the article:
Does gubernatorial front-runner Eliot Spitzer already have his eye on the White House?

Publicly, he's always said, "No." But, the word is, he recently confided his ambitions to, of all people, St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital CEO Allan Atzrott.

Both U.S. News & World Report magazine and the New York Daily News last week carried items about the supposed exchange that read like dispatches from the telephone game.

According to the publications, Spitzer told Atzrott that he would like to be "the first Jewish president." Atzrott then told Cornwall Local Editor Margaret Menge, who told U.S. News & World Report, where she used to work as a researcher.

When asked about it via e-mail, Atzrott's reply was brief. "Not true!" the hospital executive wrote. He did not respond to repeated requests for clarification.

Menge, however, stood by her story. She said Atzrott told her the tale, then repeated it as he related a conversation he'd had with Spitzer in an Albany cafeteria.

"(Atzrott's) probably not happy it's in there," Menge said. "But he said it."
How do we know Allan Atzrott said what really happened in this incident? How can we judge his credibility, or that of the reporter's? We don't and we can't. So it comes down to a matter of 'who do I believe'? Do you trust Allan E. Atzrott, Vice Chair of Greater New York Hospital Association or do you believe the 'journalist'?

Note that Margaret Menge, as far as we know, is not working for The Palm Beach Post, The Sun Sentinel, The Tampa Bay Times or The Miami Herald. Margaret Menge's last journalism job was with "a terrible little newspaper" in Key West, Florida, according to her Letter from the Editor in the paper's "Premiere Issue." Too much information, methinks. She is now editor of the burgeoning new, free weekly Lake Worth newspaper and exercising her journalistic skills in our little town.

Consider this: The first issue of this new newspaper was released on an unsuspecting public on January 16th. This happens to be only 53 days before a municipal election in Lake Worth. More questions than answers here.