When newspapers make a mistake, they should own it – ESPECIALLY with elections

October 31 – With Election Day fast approaching, the local newspaper, Public Opinion, printed what should have been a helpful voter guide listing the candidates.

For some reason, two candidate’s political parties were switched in the guide.

The Chambersburg Borough Council seat for the Third Ward is up for grabs this November and Barb Beattie is the Democrat runner while Dom Brown is the Republican.

In the paper, those parties were switched. The article was then picked up by other papers. In fact, the Record Herald version was verbatim the same as the P.O. version, with one notable exception.

Attorney Clint Barkdoll, Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen discussed the mistake Thursday morning during the Big Talk on First News.

Barkdoll said, “I don’t recall seeing in the Record Herald version the party affiliations that were tied to it. I will say to voters and there’s no doubt this was a really bad mistake. A copy editor should have clearly picked this up, but remember when you do go into vote, the party affiliation is right on the ballot next to the candidate’s name. That is the one that people should be looking at. Maybe now we know it’s not always accurate in these local print publications.”

Jansen said, “He did receive an apology from Amber South, but as you said, this is a pretty serious mistake. We cannot have mistakes like this being done for voting guides and I would hope, and they say they’re going to do a correction in this Saturday’s paper. I would hope that’s very prominent on the front page.”

Ryan said, “That thing should be on the front page, above the fold, in a little box. Drawing attention to it. Honestly, this is not child’s play here. This is serious stuff here. This borough council is 7 to 3 Democrat and if memory serves me correctly, did you tell me that somebody on borough council used to work for the P.O.? Kathy Leedy used to? This gets kind of tangled to me here. So Bard Beattie and Dom Brown get switched on the party in the P.O.”

Jansen pointed out, “Let’s be clear, we’re not accusing anybody of anything here.”

“Of course not,” Ryan agreed. “A couple of hours left until Election Day here and what looks fine in the online thing is all of a sudden, it’s wrong in the paper? I’m not accusing anybody of anything, but Barb Beattie and Kathy Leedy who used to work for the P.O. and Dom Brown is up against Barb Beattie. Sure, I’m not accusing anybody of anything here. The optics don’t look fabulous here, but I’m not accusing anything. Clint, what do you think about the optics?”

Barkdoll said, “The reality is there’s very little local hands that are on any of these stories anymore. The Record Herald, they’ve not even had a physical presence for months. The paper is produced hundreds of miles away. The ads, the layout, everything is done remotely, not even in this area, so it’s hard to say how this happened. My guess would be that a copy editor somewhere just was sloppy and got these party affiliations jumbled. Now, as I say, in the Record Herald, I don’t think the party affiliations were even listed, but again, when you go in to vote, if you’re relying on these voter guides, there are a lot of candidates that didn’t even respond. That was the other takeaway that I saw in the Record Herald story, but the ballot is what is going to control. That has the correct names, the correct party affiliations on. So if you used the voter guide, that’s great. Get familiar with these candidates, but if the party affiliation is something that’s a strong consideration, make sure you’re looking at it on the ballot, not necessarily on these guides.”

Jansen added, “And being that we’re in such a volatile situation, it didn’t used to matter parties at all on these local levels, but unfortunately we’re seeing with a lot of decisions that have been made lately, school boards and boroughs and all the potential corruption, accused corruption, at Quincy, we know that people are more than ever concerned about who is getting elected. We want moderates and I would say most conservatives at least, they want to be responsive to the community. They say they believe in the constitutional roles of elected officials. To me, that should give you some hope that they are at least listening. We’re seeing a lot of ideologues on the left-hand side. I’m not saying all Democrats, but the progressive leftists have just become by whatever means we will get things done and not really caring about what the community says. That’s what we’re fighting back against here.”

Barkdoll said, “Remember, too, this will be the second general election that you can no longer vote straight ticket. That was part of this voter reform that Pennsylvania passed pre-COVID, so the days of just going in and checking a box for all of the Democrats or all of the Republicans, that’s now gone in Pennsylvania. You must go through each race and darken the oval for the candidate you wish to vote for, even if it’s all the same party, you need to go through each race and darken the oval.”

Jansen said, “And to Pat’s point, the optics are weird these days, so if you did make this mistake and let’s say it’s just a completely, legitimate mistake, you really need to make sure you come out and correct it in a very transparent way.”

Ryan said, “I don’t need to see an apology to Dom Brown and best regards. Don’t bury this thing. Own it. Put it on the front page and own it.” The correction was published in Saturday’s PO.