A story in The Washington Post today makes you wonder if Lisa Rein can write any budget story without it being a tax/no-tax story and whether she knows anyone who has an opinion about the budget other than James Parmelee.
Rein covers Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors, so most of the tax stories fall to her. In a Lexis-Nexis search of articles written by Lisa Rein over the past two years, Parmelee, the anti-tax gadfly, is quoted in 20 of her stories. Often, as in today’s story, no grassroots person is quoted to give the anti-anti tax message. Only government officials are quoted besides Parmelee. For example, over the same period, Ellen Oppenheim, the president of RENEW, a very active grassroots school advocacy group, is never quoted in Rein’s stories; neither is the executive director of the Fairfax Education Association. FEA’s President Barbara Allen is quoted only twice. Lyn Terhar, a leader in western Fairfax and former school board candidate is quoted by Rein only once.
It seems that Ms. Rein’s stories are too often written as if all that matters to ordinary citizens is their tax rates, the only active citizens are the anti-tax folks, and Parmelee is the only guy she has in her rolodex. Parmelee is quoted in 15 stories by other Post reporters over the same period.
It’s easy for reporters to return to the usual suspects when looking for quotes because they are either easily accessible, seek out reporters for interviews or give colorful quotes. But something’s amiss and misrepresented when thoughtful voices with a different viewpoint are routinely ignored.