Station calls Edgartown election, a week early

False news report airs on WMVY.

Edgartown selectman candidate Gail Gardner was initially upset by a WMVY radio report that incorrectly gave the results of an election that didn't happen yet, but has since praised the station for its response to correct the record.

Updated 3:35 pm

A Martha’s Vineyard radio station reported a winner of the Edgartown selectman’s race, a week before the election is scheduled to happen.

Gail Gardner, who is challenging incumbent selectman Arthur Smadbeck, said she arrived at her teaching job at Edgartown School Friday morning and was approached by a colleague about her “loss” in the election.

When she said the election had not happened yet, the woman said she must have misheard the news report on MVY radio. But when Gardner was approached by a second colleague, she decided to call the station.

“I called, and they confirmed what happened,” said Gardner. They said they got an email.

In an era of fake news, this is as false as they come. The election is scheduled for Thursday, April 12.

P.J. Finn, the station’s manager, confirmed the error. “Clearly, it was a bad mistake on our part,” Finn told The Times. “We’ll do what it takes to make it right.”

Later he issued a statement, blaming the mistake on a “pre-story” written by a news copywriter. He said the false report aired three times.

“The mistake was the result of a news copywriter, writing a pre-story ahead of the election, with the intention of editing and adjusting the copy once the race results became known,” Finn wrote. “However, the incomplete and incorrect story was mistakenly sent by the copywriter to the on-air staff, who read the story.

WMVY issued an on-air retraction, and is posting that to its social media pages, he wrote. “We deeply regret the error, and have reached out to candidate Gail Gardner in hopes of offering an apology,” he wrote. “We have also spoken with Adam Darack, information officer at Edgartown Town Hall, to help clear up the confusion we created.”

WMVY has an agreement with the Vineyard Gazette to rewrite news on the newspaper’s site, but in a follow-up email, Finn wrote that the Gazette did not provide the incorrect information that was aired.

“This mistake was a result of the copywriter trying to pre-write a story,” he wrote. “The mistake is entirely WMVY’s, and should in no way reflect on the Gazette.”

Gardner, who writes the Edgartown town column for The Times, posted about the mistake on Islanders Talk, calling it “disgraceful” that someone would try to affect the election outcome by making a false report to the station.

“I think it might have an impact,” she said Friday afternoon. “Though I think more people see Islanders Talk than listen to MVY at 6 in the morning. It will be interesting to see.”

Asked why she thought someone would stoop to providing bad information to the radio station, she said,: “I must be a viable candidate, I guess, with all the stink I’ve been making the last few months.”

Later, after the radio station reached out to her, she softened that stance, saying that it appeared to be an honest mistake.

“They were super responsive and apologetic. Maybe they should have known when the election was, but everyone makes mistakes,” she wrote in a comment to The Times. “Goodness knows I’m not at my best at 6 am!! They’re a great radio station and do so much for our community. I’m glad this turned out to be a simple mistake instead of an intentional action to derail the election.”

Smadbeck did not return a message seeking comment.

Updated with statement from WMVY about what went wrong. -Ed


  1. This is more than just “disgraceful” !
    This is Edgartown political corruption at it’s best !
    THIS is why Ms Gardner is running for office ! The need for a change in Edgartown , is LONG overdue!
    “P.J. Finn, the station’s manager, confirmed the error, but hasn’t yet determined how it happened” Well, here’s a clue PJ Finn, let’s start with the fact that you did not vet your source,nor do any investigating reporting !!!
    Why wouldn’t this station WMVY, know the election schedule on the Island?
    An apology by WMVY is insufficient, the damage was completed!!
    I believe the least that WMVY can do , is to give Ms Gardner a full week, 3 X’s a day free, excellent, pro Gardner advertising on their station!! Starting NOW !

  2. What’s truly a shame is that WMVY, the “local” radio station had no clue that the election wasn’t even happening till next week. Talk about being a on island radio personality and not even know when your island town elections are. There are only 6 towns. Not to difficult to know unless you’re in a bubble somewhere .

  3. Though I support Ms Gardner I don’t think there was a conspiracy. People make mistakes. What is bad is the unprofessionalism of the radio station. Pre-writing news stories are fine for obituaries or annual public events but pre-writing political stories has gotten many news stories into trouble over the years. Then to have an intern compiled them is amateur.

  4. I’d like to see all of those alleging collusion and Russian interference in the election ask for an investigation and a special counsel. Someone give this story to MSNBC CNN ABC CBS NBC.

  5. Hi Folks. Gail Gardner here. When I first contacted the radio station, the gentleman I spoke to didn’t know much about what happened. But the story appeared to come from a reputable source that they wouldn’t think to question. Further investigation into it revealed that it was just an honest mistake. And they were super responsive and apologetic. Maybe they should have known when the election was but everyone makes mistakes. Goodness knows I’m not at my best at 6 am!! They’re a great radio station and do so much for our community. I’m glad this turned out to be a simple mistake instead of an intentional action to derail the election. Vote NEXT Thursday.

  6. Just wondering, when the radio station made the “mistake”, did they make any other mistakes about the election?
    Did they mention any other contest winners? Did they mention the giant overrides? How about adding Fluoride to our water…did the mention that?

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