4150 Out Of 4200 Storey County Residents Agree – Don’t Treat Us Like Mushrooms
The Teller remains critical of the way Storey County communicates with its citizens since we started nearly two years ago. The county has a Public Information Officer (County Manager in waiting Austin Osborne) and an actual Communications Department. They also employ VCTC Directors Deny Dotson’s PR firm, RAD Strategies.
The “Communication Department’s” sole form of “communication” with the public comes in the form of Facebook posts about missing pets, down power lines and weather reports. A recent post included a house for sale owned by a former Team Storey Public Works department head.
These Social Media posts are laudable efforts, but they do little to inform residents in a meaningful way about what is really going on here in The Richest Place On Earth. Lost dogs are important, but information that sheds light into the financial, legal and functional machinations within the county is at least as important.
County Commissioner Carmona Communicates Cautiously
Freshly minted County Commissioner Jay Carmona ran a successful campaign in 2018. One of the cornerstones of his platform to improve communications within the county. Carmona has been quite chatty on the Virginia City Highlands email chat group (not a blog) with road updates, loose animals, and weather reports. During his campaign, Carmona set up various community pages and has made good on posting regularly to these pages.
The Teller (also not a blog) is pleased he ran on this issue and is hopeful his efforts will continue. Lance Gilman used to hold quarterly “town halls” but hasn’t been heard from for a long, long while. Carmona’s predecessor Jackie McGuffey would comment on the VCH chat group a couple times a year. Marshall McBride firmly believes in the Mushroom Method (keep them in the dark and feed them plenty of s#it). He has never held a public meeting in Virginia City, Gold Hill or Mark Twain in an official capacity outside the Commissioner Meetings.
As great as they are, social media and email posts with weather, garbage pickups, and road conditions do little to meaningly inform residents about important County business. With the inside information Mr. Carmona has access to, we remain hopeful he will fulfill his promise of keeping us up to date with relevant county information beyond loose dog and stuck car reports. Time will tell.
Comstock Comical Changes Hands, Remains Comical
Tiffany DuBois bought the Comstock Comical from Storey County and CMI Cheerleader Elaine Spencer-Barkdull. Under Elaine’s watch, the taxpayer-subsidized Comical devolved from a fantastic 16-page journalistic powerhouse under Angela Mann to a flimsy collection press releases and the history of Dayton. And it bought and burned the Virginia City News.
While it’s too early to tell, an inventory of Comical content reveals a troubling trend:
- 4 actual news stories about Storey County (9 if you include the SCSO arrest log)
- 6 Puff Pieces (including a piece about a march with genitalia hats)
- 17 Columnists who don’t discuss VC/Storey County (Harry Spencer’s pieces about Reno could be moved to the history section)
- 9 stories about Lyon County history
- 13 stories about Lyon County(!)
- 24 canned Press Releases that have zero to do with Storey County (including what comfort food to serve today for the Super Bowl and how awesome online banks are)
Storey County taxpayers subsidize the Comical because the Comical is the Storey County “paper of record”. Once I get a public record request filled, I’ll let you know exactly how much Elane Spencer-Barkdull fleeced us taxpayers for. Two years ago, when I worked for and was in the market to buy the paper, we printed 800 copies, sent 108 of those to subscribers and threw away about 350 every week. In contrast, The Teller has over 2000 readers a week. Do the math.
Fake Yellow News
County Commissioner Marshall McBride called me a liar on the front page of the Comical. He and Pat Whitten have called the information published in The Teller “fake news”. McBride called me a “yellow journalist” to my face in an energetic conversation. The comment was in response to my report on how the county budget was $1.7 million in the red.
McBride never told me or the public what I was actually lying about. That’s because the “fake news” I lied about came from the budget he and commissioners McGuffey and Gilman passed.
The Fourth Estate and the Fifth Column
The relationship between the press and government entities demands an adversarial relationship. Our country was formed with the notion that the Press would be the “Fourth Estate” of Government after the Legislative, Judicial, and Executive branches. In a spectacular essay by a younger Glenn Greenwald (the gritty journalist who introduced us to Edward Snowden), Greenwald says:
An adversarial process is designed to uncover deceit and falsehood by ensuring that claims and arguments are subjected to meaningful scrutiny by some opposing force. An adversarial press means that it views its function as a watchdog over the Government, as a check on its power. It fulfills that function by viewing Government statements and actions skeptically and with the intent to scrutinize them and determine their truth, rather than mindlessly convey what the Government asserts. It means that there is a difference between a free press and Pravda.
So there you have it, gentle reader. If you want sunshine and lollypops with your cream puffs, the County is serving it up all day. If you are into press releases, the history of Dayton, and The Storey Pravda, The Comical is for you. At some point, you need to eat bacon and eggs or steak and potatoes.
Luckily, you have a choice, over easy or medium rare.
¡Hasta la Victoria, Siempre!