The following are recent emails between Wendy Liberatore and myself.
From: John Kaufmann < >
Date: Tuesday, May 2, 2017 at 9:31 AM
To: “Liberatore, Wendy D” < >
I assume you have read my piece on the Skidmore Survey. I was wondering if you see any journalistic issue about the paper publishing a piece encouraging your readers to participate in a survey whose purpose is misrepresented?
From: Liberatore, Wendy D 
Sent: Tuesday, May 02, 2017 6:29 PM
To: John Kaufmann
Subject: Re: Survey
The survey is an educational exercise that the community was asked to participate in. The posting was intended as a general announcement to the public that they could, if they chose, participate.
A link was posted, not the survey itself.
There was no intention to brainwash, mislead or persuade readers on the charter issue.
As emotions run high on this subject, I doubt that anyone who voluntarily took the survey changed their position on the charter.
By the way, SUCCESS’s stand on the charter has also been posted to the blog.
As you know, a blog is not a strict journalistic vehicle and often descends into opinion. Of course, I avoid espousing mine, as that would be crossing a journalistic line.
Thanks for reaching out,
First I appreciate Ms. Liberatore’s willingness to not only engage but to allow me to post her response on this blog.
The great Japanese film maker, Akira Kurasawa, made a movie called Rashomon. The film is about a disturbing incident and involves the retelling of the event from the eyes of the three people who experienced it. Each narrative is both wildly different and fully consistent with the particular character who retells it.
Ms. Liberatore and I are addressing the same “survey” and each of us viewed it entirely differently. I am not sure what this means about either Ms. Liberatore or myself but I offer the following observations.
Ms. Liberatore appears to consider the survey as simply a student exercise. It appears that in that context she sees little problem in the fact that the readers of her newspaper who may have participated in the survey were misled by its authors as to the true nature of what the survey was.
My view is that this kind of misrepresentation is inappropriate. I know that at least one person would not have taken this survey if they had been aware of its true nature. That person is, of course, me. It should be no surprise then that I am particularly troubled that a newspaper would be an enabler.
Ms. Liberatore asserts with certitude that all the individuals behind this survey had no intention to, among other things, “mislead” or “persuade.”
In my blog I was careful to avoid offering an opinion as to the motivations of the people behind this survey. I have no way of knowing for sure what that motivation was. What I do know is that the “survey” met all the criteria for what a push poll is and that whatever the intentions of the authors, the design was consistent with in effect spinning the participant to what in this case was support for a charter change. I offered that a person with Mr. Mann’s credentials should have been aware of this potential problem.
I appreciate that Ms. Liberatore offers a qualified assessment of the impact of the survey when she writes that she “doubts” anyone was affected by it. I do not know whether I am being unfair to her but this seems to agree with the previous paragraph of the potential for problems. In fact, given that my blog apparently killed it very shortly after it was publicly offered, I agree with Ms. Liberatore that it probably had little impact.
I am not clear about the significance of the distinction between publishing a link to the survey as compared to actually publishing the survey on the paper’s website.
It is the nature of this blog to encourage public discussions that takes the form of courteous exchanges. Ms. Liberatore, in her role for the Capital District’s largest newspaper, is an important figure in our community. I am grateful for the opportunity to have engaged her and hope that she will find the time to do so either further on this topic or on other issues in the future.