Flawed And Biased Journalism: Who’s Watching the Watchdog?

pictured: India Walton and  her sons celebrate her mayoral primary victory on election night.Street Legacy Photos by Darvin Adams

By Arthur J. Giacalone

The Buffalo News displayed its flawed and biased journalism – and willingness to engage in junkyard-dog politics – with its July 19 through 21 articles aimed at undermining India Walton’s mayoral campaign.

Under the ironic caption, “Buffalo News Watchdog,” the newspaper splashed across the top of its June 20, 2021 front page the following headline:

Drug complaint probed at Walton’s apartment in ’18 – Man who stayed at house did time for selling coke.“  

Not only does the ambiguous subheading imply a non-existent link between the 2018 “drug complaint” at the mayoral candidate’s former apartment and the cocaine conviction, it is not until the third paragraph of the article that readers are told that the police found no evidence of drugs being sold at Walton’s house, and that neither India Walton, nor the “man who stayed at [her] house,” were charged with any crime.  [The on-line version of the article, was published July 19, 2021 under the tamer headline, “Mayoral candidate Walton left rental in ’18 after landlord accused friend of dealing drugs from house.“]

This sensationalized “story” was based on the allegations of a landlord “who did not want his name used,” who admits that he never saw drugs or drug activities at the house, and who based his concerns on the word of an unnamed “lady next door.”  Most significantly, as noted above, the police reports obtained by the Buffalo News “do not indicate that police had proof of drugs being sold in Walton’s home.”

In a nutshell, proof of any wrongdoing by India Walton is totally absent.  And, the public has no way of knowing what if any connections may exist between the anonymous landlord and Byron Brown.  In such a situation, an unbiased and responsible news organization would not have published the original article.

But, irresponsible accusations and innuendo have a life of their own.  Equivocation by Erie Democratic Party Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner, regarding the Democratic party’s continued support of Ms. Walton’s campaign, provided the Buffalo News the opportunity to print a second story on July 21, 2021.  This time the headline adorned the top of its local section:  “Dems mull questions over Walton friend – Zellner to weigh input on party’s ‘concerns’.” 

The article that followed began in an intentionally eye-catching fashion:  “An allegation of drug activity at a house rented by Democratic mayoral nominee India B. Walton three years ago cast new perspective on her campaign…”

Zellner, as Democratic Party chairman, should have expressed outrage at the Buffalo News for its irresponsible front page accusations against the winner of the Democratic primary for the Mayor of Buffalo.  City of Buffalo residents deserve stronger and more forceful leadership than what the chairman exhibited this past week.

The biggest problem we have in Western New York, however – if we wish to see a fair and honest mayoral campaign – is the reality that our region’s self-appointed “watchdog” needs a watchdog of its own.