Times Union Watch: Mark Scirocco Becomes Another Victim of Bad Journalism

In the October 22, 2019, edition of the Times Union, Wendy Liberatore reported the following allegation made by Dillon Moran, who at the time was the Democratic candidate for Saratoga Springs Public Works Commissioner running against the incumbent Commissioner, Skip Scirocco:

He [Dillon Moran] also said that Scirocco’s son, Mark Scirocco, continues to require a driver to work for the city’s DPW, something that Moran finds disconcerting.

The problem was that this was not true, and Ms. Liberatore must have known it to be untrue when she reported it. She had reported months ago that Mark Scirocco’s drivers license had been suspended for ninety days. Since it was well after the 90 days, it should have, at a minimum, prompted her to both question Mr. Moran’s assertion and check on the status of the suspension. She could also have checked with the city’s Human Resources Office regarding Scirocco’s status before printing Moran’s statement.

Bad as that is, it does not match the response by Casey Seiler to whom Ms. Liberatore reports. As the correspondence below documents, Mr. Seiler asserts that since the accusation was made by a candidate for public office, the policy of the Times Union, according to Mr. Seiler, was to seek a response from the opponent in order to address the issue. Mr. Seiler then observes that Ms. Liberatore was unable to secure a response from Commissioner Scirocco.

He then goes on to ask Mark Scirocco to address a series of questions that are at best only indirectly related to the issue of whether the newspaper had printed a patently false statement. For example, Seiler asks “Are you still a meter reader or have you taken on another set of tasks?”

Nevertheless, Mark Scirocco responds to all of Mr. Seiler’s questions.

In spite of this, Mr. Seiler still maintains that Commissioner Scirocco needs to respond before the paper will print a correction.

File This Under The Category That “Life’s Not Fair”

So there was a time when there were editors at newspapers who would have felt driven to correct any inaccuracy that appeared in the newspaper with all speed possible. They would have considered it a blot on their reputation to leave an untruth remain in print especially one that sullied someone’s reputation.

This unfortunately is not the case with the Times Union in general and Mr. Seiler in particular. Why should the unwillingness of Commissioner Scirocco to talk to the Times Union be a reason to refuse to correct an error in the newspaper for which there is ample documentation proving that the statement is false?

The reality is that Commissioner Scirocco is just one of a number of elected officials who refuse to take Ms. Liberatore’s calls. This story is a vivid example of why so many are reluctant to engage with the Times Union.

It is particularly troubling that Ms. Liberatore and Mr. Seiler would abuse their power by using the correction of an untrue statement about Commissioner Scirocco’s son as leverage to get the Commissioner to talk to them.

Below is the exchange between Mark Scirocco and Casey Seiler that is really worth a read. The TU never did publish a correction.

____________________________________________

From: mark scirocco <roc345@msn.com>
Sent: Saturday, October 19, 2019 5:07 PM
To: Smith, Rex <RSmith@TimesUnion.com>
Subject: Request for correction

Hi, Mr. Smith.

My name is Mark Scirocco, Skip Scirocco’s son. I read the article today 

https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Water-issues-central-Public-Works-race-14546073.php

and it contains a blatant lie. Mrs. Libertore put in her article that I, ” continue to require a driver to work for the city’s DPW.” This is something that is totally untrue and I would Kindly request that it be removed and a correction be applied to the article. I have retained representation because Mrs. Libertore has also made claims in other articles about me that are also untrue, mainly claiming that I was assigned a driver, when the truth of the matter is that I have always worked and driven around with my supervisor and continue to do so to this day. She also implied that I received special treatment when she knows this is false as well, as she had foiled the records of other DPW employees who were treated the same as I was, she knows that claim to be false as well. While I am a great supporter of the press and their duty to hold public officials accountable, there should also be some standards in regards of truthfulness and not repeating false and salacious statements against private citizens. 

Thank You,

Mark Scirocco

____________________________________________

From: Rex Smith <RSmith@TimesUnion.com>
Date: Sunday, October 20, 2019 at 9:47 PM
To: mark scirocco <roc345@msn.com>
Cc: Casey Seiler <cseiler@timesunion.com>
Subject: RE: Request for correction

To Mark Scirocco:

Thank you for your note. I apologize for not responding more quickly.

Unfortunately, I’m going to be traveling Monday, so I’m unable to look into this personally. I am copying Managing Editor Casey Seiler so that he can be aware of your complaint, and he and I will discuss the matter Tuesday. If there are errors in any article, we are pleased to correct them immediately. Meanwhile, we will look into your claims.

Sincerely yours,

Rex Smith

____________________________________________

From: Seiler, Casey <cseiler@timesunion.com>
Sent: Monday, October 21, 2019 9:44:51 AM
To: mark scirocco <roc345@msn.com>
Cc: Smith, Rex <RSmith@TimesUnion.com>; Liberatore, Wendy <wliberatore@timesunion.com>
Subject: Re: Request for correction

Mr. Scirocco:

I’ve discussed this with Wendy, and she’s correct in noting that she was quoting a claim from your father’s political opponent, which she then took to your father so he could offer a response, which was also included in the story. That’s standard journalistic practice when covering a factual dispute between two politicians.

A few questions that would help us gain clarity on this subject:

  • What’s the current status of your driver’s license? Would it allow you to operate a city vehicle?
  • Before your 2018 arrest, did you need a partner to perform your work?
  • Are you still a meter reader, or have you taken on another set of tasks?
  • If you are a meter reader, can you explain why that job requires two people, so we can take that description to other municipalities to determine if it squares with their practices?
  • Are there other DPW meter readers who work with partners to the extent that you do?

I can be reached at 518-454-5619 to discuss these questions or any other issues you might have.

Best,

Casey

____________________________________________

From: mark scirocco <roc345@msn.com>
Date: Monday, October 21, 2019 at 12:30 PM
To: Casey Seiler <cseiler@timesunion.com>
Cc: Rex Smith <RSmith@TimesUnion.com>, “Liberatore, Wendy” <wliberatore@timesunion.com>, John Kaufmann <john.kaufmann21@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: Request for correction

The statement is completely false  and the reporter knows it’s completely false as per her own reporting. She reported back in January, in your own paper, that there was a 90 day suspension.

While the suspension was far less then the 90 days, it would be safe to conclude that the 90 days had elapsed several months ago. Why you guys would be asking me now as to the status of my license is befuddling. She had also reported in the paper  That the only thing required to have the privileges reinstated is the license as again per her reporting, 

Unless you’re seriously suggesting that she still thinks it’s within the 90 day period, she knows his comment to be false and still decided to print it. Knowingly printing false information, regardless of the source, seems to me to be the antithesis of good or standard journalism as printing the comment lends it credence or validity, or at the very least portrays that there is still an argumentative point. 

I will also include information showing that Mr. Moran also knows it to be false. In a correspondence to me last year, he apologized to me for being raked over the coals and said “Skip did nothing wrong.”  

As for the other questions, they have been answered ad nauseam at this point.  Why Mrs. Liberatore decides to rely on poor sourcing choices is beyond me and up to you and the Times Union to figure out. 

•Ms. Liberatore  knows I have a license, as per her own reporting.

•Yes. I have worked with my supervisor Skip Colucci, for years now and still do.  He is the one, long before my arrest, that determined it was better for the two of us to work together. 

•I was never just a meter reader, I’ve worked with Mr. Colucci installing meters, since I was hired in 2013. It is just one of the many tasks we perform, which also  includes reading meters. 

•Not just a meter reader; but Mr. Colucci, my 76 year old supervisor, determines why the job requires two people. It’s essentially a job that deals with construction aspects and often times requires more then one set of hands to do the job. We also perform tasks faster, which means we are not holding up homeowners for greater periods of time. 

•Not just a meter reader; but the other two meter readers perform the task of just reading and not installing, comparing out job with theirs is not an accurate comparison. 

____________________________________________

From: Seiler, Casey <cseiler@timesunion.com>
Sent: Wednesday, October 23, 2019 5:07 PM
To: mark scirocco <roc345@msn.com>
Subject: Re: Request for correction

That’s great, we still need to hear from your father. This should be easier.

C.

_________________________________

From: mark scirocco <roc345@msn.com>
Sent: Wednesday, October 23, 2019 8:58 PM
To: Seiler, Casey <cseiler@timesunion.com>
Subject: Re: Request for correction

Yes, it should be easier. You should be contacting the individual who made the claim that is being questioned and ask him to provide you with the proof of his claim. In fact, this should’ve happened before you even reported it in the paper as a fact. The fact that you’re asking the injured party to disprove an allegation instead of asking the accuser to prove it is quite a different than what seems to be normal practice. 

_________________________________________

3 thoughts on “Times Union Watch: Mark Scirocco Becomes Another Victim of Bad Journalism”

  1. When you have to resort to dragging a candidate’s son (not the candidate himself) through the mud, it should be obvious that you are running a losing campaign.

    I also find it quite ironic that the Dems want to use a DWAI conviction to try disparage someone’s character, and then turn around and appoint a chairperson who has one. Pot calling the kettle black, much?

    The TU editorial staff has a responsibility to promote ethical reporting. It’s shameful that someone libeled by the press had to go to such lengths to PROVE the information was untrue only to be blatantly ignored.

    Clearly, there’s no accountability for shoddy reporting at the TU. A local blog will have to suffice.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. If people like to read about gossip and rumors, we already have the NY Post for that, and some other Enquirer -type rags too. What we (Saratogians) need is a local newspaper. A newspaper with local news. The closest thing now is John K’s blog. Keep up the good work JK.

    Liked by 2 people

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