The Pilot’s county government coverage goes from BAD to WORSE





I thought it would be hard for The Pilot to put someone worse than Florence Gilkeson on the county government beat.  But there is a new king of bad reporting in The Pilot newsroom, and his name is John Lentz.  King John has made a habit of screwing up names of county officials, and twisting the facts of public meetings so badly that they do a better job of matching Tim Lea’s spin than they do reality.  

I spoke with one of my county government moles who regularly gets to watch Lentz in action at county meetings:

“He’s writing when he shouldn’t be, and he’s not writing when something clearly newsworthy comes up.  He sits there fawning over commissioner Lea like a school girl.  He spends a lot of time huddled up with Mr. Lea, and doesn’t make much of an effort to go talk to anyone else.  So, when you see stuff he writes, it’s pretty obvious it’s heavily influenced by commissioner Lea.”

King John has really outdone himself with his articles on the contrived Bojangles controversy in Carthage.  He took dictation from Timmy — who ranted about discussing the Bojangles deal in closed session.  The Pilot printed article after article trumpeting Timmy’s “outrage” over this purported violation of Open Meetings Law.  (Never mind that no action was taken.  Never mind that audio tapes of the closed sessions subsequently released revealed that Timmy, himself, was the one who would not shut up about Bojangles.)  

Facts be damned.  Timmy has something to say, and Pravda-on-Pennsylvania ™ is going to print every syllable.  

I want to take time to recommend to my Moore County readers another blog that does a great job of reporting on local news.  Bill Cochrane of Southern Pines is the publisher and blogger- in-chief.  (Check him out after you finish reading us.)  Bill does yeoman’s work in videotaping every meeting of the Moore County Board of Commissioners, The Pinehurst Village Council, and The Southern Pines Town Council.  He posts all of the videos on his site.  You can view the video of the most recent county board of commissioners meeting HERE.

After reading Lentz’s article on the county meeting, I decided to watch Bill’s video.  I saw in the video at least three things that were more newsworthy than what Lentz ran with:

  1. Chairman Larry Caddell read two letters, one from the Bojangles CEO and one from the project developer, saying that — due to all of the negative publicity surround the proposed Carthage deal — the company was backing off its investigation of the site in question.
  2. The CEO vehemently denied all of the gossip — being spread mainly by the Lea cabal and the “veterans group” opposing the restaurant project — that the company and Chairman Caddell, a former Carthage mayor, were in cahoots on a crooked deal.  The Bojangles CEO hinted at legal action if the gossip — and the misinformation in the local media — continued.   Caddell offered copies of the letters in question to all media in the room. Apparently, The Pilot and The Seven Lakes Times refused his offer.
  3. Commissioner Nick Picerno reported on his and commissioner Craig Kennedy’s efforts to work out a deal to integrate the water plant in Robbins into the county water system.  Robbins shut down the plant years ago, but is still paying to maintain it.  The upkeep of the plant has become such a financial burden that it is putting the town’s charter at risk.  Commissioner Picerno talked about working with Rep. Boles and Senator Tillman in Raleigh to seek a solution on re-opening the plant.  Picerno expressed frustration over the fact that the county would need to get approval on the deal from THIRTEEN state agencies, wait up to nine years, and spend millions of dollars.
My sources tell me that King John was in the room for ALL of that.  But our scribe decided to follow the lead of The Seven Lakes Times and dutifully regurgitate Timmy’s delusional rantings about Bojangles and the veterans’ memorial.
It’s pretty clear from watching Bill’s videos that we are often fed a very biased, often skewed version of events on The Pilot’s news pages.  Hopefully, someone in management at The Pilot will take this opportunity to counsel King John and help him do a better job of accurately reporting events he witnesses while on the clock.
I want to believe that a lot of this is based in pure incompetence, and there is no subversive agenda at work in the newsroom.  But you do need to consider a few more facts.   King John has been witnessed — on plenty of occasions — fawning over Timmy.  Timmy has made it well known around Carthage that his two top enemies are commissioners Nick Picerno and Larry Caddell.   A former Pilot columnist has filed as a Democrat to run against Picerno in November. Multiple political sources around the county confirm that Timmy is not-so-covertly coaching her and managing her campaign.
 Most of King John’s reporting also tends to paint Caddell — Timmy’s other top enemy — as a villain, whether he deserves it or not.  Timmy’s comments are never fact-checked, and he is often made to appear to be the only one speaking at a board meeting.
The Pilot needs to stay out of political vendettas and insider games.  We need THE FACTS.  Why not tape meetings like Bill Cochrane has?
The current state of affairs in The Pilot newsroom is little more than a travesty toward American democracy, and an abuse of  The First Amendment.
Watch the tape before you read The Pilot.  It’s hard for the tape to lie.