A Candidate Looks at Campaign News Coverage

by Mike DeRosa

Ok, I didn't win the election. I was up against an entrenched incumbent machine Democrat who took corporate Political Action Committee money, a Republican, and I ended up way down on line 5 in the voting booth. I also got short shrift from the two Chicago Tribune owed papers in this city. Considering the upcoming Connecticut state government deficit of $1.5 Billion, I predict that the winners of the recent legislative election will envy the losers.

Oh yes, I was the Green Party Candidate for CT state senate in the 1st district (Hartford and Wethersfield). A lot of you have told me to keep on going, so here we go.

You would think in a city as large as Hartford that you would have a sophisticated news corps eager to report on local political events and candidates with in-depth reporting. My experience with the news corps has been mixed.

The New Britain Herald, the Wethersfield Life, and the Hartford News did an excellent job with individual stories about my campaign. The Herald gave our numerous endorsements good play. The Wethersfield Life did an in-depth look at the three candidates running for the 1st senatorial seat. The Hartford News gave encouragement and printed a front-page story on an anti-war demonstration that David Ionno, Green candidate for Hartford Board of Ed, and I organized in Hartford. We also got some T.V. and Radio coverage for the campaign from Channel 61 and WTIC when Ralph Nader endorsed us on the steps of the state capitol.

The Coverage from the Hartford Advocate and the Hartford Courant was another story. For starters, the Hartford Courant can't get my election summary numbers straight. In a Nov. 6, 2002 news story, their reporter, Helen Urbinas, produced an election graphic box for district 1 that says I received zero votes in Hartford with "all precincts reporting." I got ten calls on Nov. 6th from people from Hartford, telling me they voted for me and they wanted to know what was going on. I then contacted and faxed the Courant asking that my vote total be corrected. The next day, in the last paragraph in an article on the recount for city school board, Courant reporter Mark Pazniokas reported that I got 415 votes in Hartford because the unofficial results available from City Hall Tuesday night omitted my votes. After numerous calls, faxes, and conversations over a week and half, the Courant still has not published my vote total from both Hartford and Wethersfield in an appropriate place. For the record I got 415 votes in Hartford and 461 votes in Wethersfield for a grand total of 876. I can't understand why they won't publish the grand total in the "Setting The Record Straight" column. Maybe you should call them and find out.

In the same Nov. 6th article by Ms. Urbinas, she states that the 1st district incumbent, John Fonfara, "raised $3,770 and spent only $2,230 on his re-election campaign". On the basis of these facts she takes this as a sign that Fonfara "was less than concerned about his two opponents in the 1st senate district." The only problem is that according to Mr. Fonfara's most recent report (10/29/02) to the Secretary of State he got aggregate donations of $15,945 and spent $12,503 on his campaign. Unfortunately, the Courant almost two weeks later, has not yet "set the record straight" on this one either.

If you think that the other paper across town, the Hartford Advocate is going to report on the Green Party candidates, think again. In the recent Oct 31st Halloween edition of the Hartford Advocate, reporter Dan Levine announced that "Progressives shouldn't vote" for Mike DeRosa. The stated reason: Mike can't win. Mr. Levine then goes on to say that my campaign has "accomplished little".

How would he know? He has never spoken with any of my more than 100 supporters or me about the campaign, nor has he observed our day-to-day campaign activities. On numerous occasions during the campaign I and others have called and e-mailed Mr. Levine with press releases and requests for coverage. But alas, no interviews and no news stories about the only campaign in town with three candidates. Adding to the problem is the unconscionable timing of the article telling people not to vote for me. By printing this attack on the Green campaign in the Oct 31st edition of the Advocate it made it impossible for the Green Party or my campaign to respond before the election.

While both Mr. Levine and Mr. Pazniokas attended the third debate for the 1st district senate seat at Trinity College, neither reported some of more amazing responses of the incumbent. Mr. Fonfara told the assembled audience (we have all of this on video tape) that he didn't know what the "Patriot Act" was, he could not correctly define what living wage legislation was, and he thinks the sole cause of asthma is cockroaches. The two Tribune owned papers reported none of this.

I also spoke out loudly about pollution in Hartford. I made an issue about the fact that MDC has been polluting our community for 12 years without a formal and signed permit and spoke about this at three of our debates. I also made a big issue about the 41% asthma rates among Hartford Children and the relationship of polluted air and other factors as the cause for our high rates of asthma in Hartford. None of this was reported by the paper of record or by the alternative weekly in this city.

I would say that we have a real problem when it comes to political reporting in this city. The two corporate papers that have news resources in this city produce little real news about local candidates. We also need fairer and more accurate coverage of candidates, especially Green candidates in Hartford.

In spite of the problems we encountered, this Green campaign was a success because it gave the Green Party ballot access status for the next election and because we raised important issues one on one with the electorate of this city. We also gave out tens of thousands of pieces of literature and put up over 700 lawn signs Most importantly we recruited numerous new community people to our party. We went door to door and spoke with the residents of Hartford about the real issues affecting their lives. Building the Green Party in Hartford will not be easy but our campaign this year has laid the foundation for a truly multi-cultural, multi-racial, and multi-ethnic party. In my book that is something worth reporting.

This article was originally published in the Hartford News.

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