Folks, it has become clear over the past year that the Lowell Sun is more interested in sensationalism and yellow journalism than fact checking and accurate or complete reporting. Over and over again, when the Sun is provided factual information, the most important facts are omitted.
Worst of all, they refuse to report central facts that are not opinion and that would show that our officials are lying about their lawbreaking and ethics violations. Phil Eliopoulos can deny his ethics violations all he wants, and no one can keep the Sun from printing his denials – after all, there’s no law against lying (apart from the ethics laws pertaining to public officials, and perjury during formal investigations). But we certainly must take issue with the Sun's refusal to publish the truth as well. If they are going to publish Eliopoulos’ prevarications and denials, why are they refusing to print the content of the very documents he references, and accurately show that he is not being truthful? For instance, his letter from the Ethics Commission that he quotes as exonerating him, explicitly states that their decision was based only on what he told them. Do you know what he told them? I bet he didn’t tell them he voted to have the town refrain from any option to purchase the land behind the fire station. I bet he didn’t tell them he was representing his father’s interests to Eastern Bank while a sitting selectman. I bet he didn’t tell them that the matter was before the town while he was a sitting selectman, and then he represented Epsilon, LLC shortly after resigning as a selectman. Those are all major ethics violations, against the law! They are documented in the written evidence the Sun has been provided.
With respect to Paul Cohen, why isn't the Sun willing to juxtapose his statements to the BOS last summer that he was “never approached by Eastern Bank?” with his subsequent conflicting story that he “briefed” the selectmen at a closed executive session in early March of 2009? Why would he tell the selectmen in 2010 that he was never approached by the bank, if he briefed them a year earlier about being approached by the bank?! Why aren’t they willing to print the fact that the meeting minutes from that executive session – which Paul Cohen lied and said weren’t available, but have been provided to the newspaper – show no evidence of any such briefing, and also contradict Cohen’s assertion that Phil Eliopoulos left early, prior to the supposed briefing. In fact, the minutes indicate that Phil Eliopoulos took part in the motion to adjourn. And why aren’t they willing to print the very real evidence – the meeting’s documented in minutes and on video – that the entire Board of Selectmen INCLUDING PHIL ELIOPOULOS sat through a Permanent Building Committee presentation in LATE March of 2009 during which Pat Maloney went through several options for Center Fire Station that included acquisition of the land behind the Fire Station now referred to as “9 North Road,” and NOT A SINGLE SELECTMAN SAID A WORD? If they had been briefed by Cohen, as he now must insist after the damaging deposition of Eastern Bank official Tom Dunn, why wouldn’t they just say, “Pat, that’s not an option.” Or, when Pat Maloney made an estimate that the price would be $300,000 or less, let him know that the price was actually closer to $100,000? Phil Eliopoulos was there and he certainly knew. It’s another ethics violation for Phil. It’s documented. It’s fact. It’s not anyone's “opinion.” It’s yellow journalism to perpetuate conflict between good government advocates and town officials, when in fact the newspaper simply refuses to print the facts to perpetuate conflict and manufacture supposed "controversy." There should be no controversy over the facts. But the Sun simply is the worst vessel for providing accurate and complete information regarding the facts.
The message below from the good people at CheatingChelmsford.com illustrates the contempt that the Sun Editorial Board and individual correspondents have for real investigative reporting or accurate news delivery. And it illustrates why we have to spend so much time, energy, and money disseminating information that should be available from the mainstream press.
We have submitted to the Lowell Sun this Letter to the Editor, but they won’t even return our calls and emails. We are again forced to disseminate this information directly to the people of Chelmsford and we need your help. Please, share this with your friends on Facebook and Twitter, or by forwarding this email, today.
Letter to the Editor
We understand that there exists a symbiotic relationship between the media and the politicians: each needs one another for success. However, when this results in biased and factually incorrect news coverage, the big losers are the people that both these institutions are supposed to serve.
Public officials like Town Manager Paul Cohen and former Board of Selectman (BOS) chair Phil Eliopoulos have made sweeping statements that our research is “full of lies” and “purely propaganda” but they are not pressed for any specifics. Yet the papers blame reform advocates for “a hostile political climate.”
The Lowell Sun Chairman (August 7, 2010) even penned an editorial based on ‘anonymous submissions’ slamming opponents to the ‘9 North Road’ project. Right in the editorial, he stated, “I don’t have all the facts”.
Here are some questions for our local media professionals:
Why is Paul Cohen not asked why the minutes from the March 9, 2009 executive session don’t mention his disclosure of the potential sale of “9 North Road” to Eliopoulos?
Why do the minutes from the March 9 session state that Eliopoulos voted to adjourn the meeting when Cohen has publicly stated that Eliopoulos had left the meeting earlier?
Why has Paul Cohen’s assertion that the Executive meeting minutes from March 9 were missing left unchecked, when we at Cheating Chelmsford went to Town Hall in January of 2011 and found these “missing minutes” by simply asking for them. Any responsible journalist could have done the checking that we did effortlessly.
Why is Phil Eliopoulos allowed to say he never cast any votes concerning the purchase of 9 North Road, when the minutes from the March 23, 2009 BOS meeting clearly state that the Board voted (including Eliopoulos) to have the town use the land on Wilson Street instead of the parcel of land behind the Center Fire Station (“9 North Road’). Why did he not recuse himself?
When Philip Eliopoulos announced last week that he was suing resident Roland Van Liew for defamation why hasn’t the media investigate the claims of the suit?
Why do the papers not correctly report that formal inquiry into “9 North Road” is being blocked via legal technicalities that keep litigants from having “standing” to sue? Instead, they print quotes from town officials and Epsilon reps that “9 North appeal was dismissed” and the litigants’ arguments have no merit, which is not true at all.
Why does the Lowell Sun’s Chelmsford correspondent ask for analysis of an upcoming warrant article that would make it harder to recall officials, then refuse to report that the warrant would both severely limit the number of petitions provided and prohibit photocopying making a recall virtually impossible?
Why do the papers repeatedly print quotes from Phil Eliopoulos that a Land Court judge has ruled that Epsilon is not violating the Preservation Restriction when the judge stated that until the matter is settled in court, construction proceeds “at your peril.”
Why does the Lowell Sun parrot officials’ claim that public advocacy groups are keeping candidates from running? In 2009, public advocacy groups produced solid evidence that public policy in Chelmsford was headed in the wrong direction. As a result, more candidates than ever ran for Town Meeting rep, several incumbents were defeated, and six candidates competed for the two open selectman seats Three candidates ran for the selectman seats last spring, and three candidates ran for the open seat last fall, at least one of which was due specifically to public advocacy. Until 2010, Planning Board seats were almost always uncontested. The seats in the coming election are contested, specifically because of public advocacy.
The refusal of the media to print the whole story makes it necessary for public advocacy groups to expend resources on independent dissemination of the facts. When they do so, via emails, letters, or flyers, the media characterize the acts as “controversial” and quote town officials characterizing the letters or flyers as “propaganda ” and “ignored the facts”.
There is a term for what is going on: it’s called “Yellow journalism,” which is when the media present little or no genuine fact-checking and instead use controversy and eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers. Today, the citizens of Chelmsford are being subjected to this type of journalism, which has perverted the truth.
Not only must we hold our officials accountable, we expect the press to be impartial and honest. We will continue to work to shed light on the truth, which has been missing for a long time here in Chelmsford.
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