Monday, April 23, 2007

Sins of Omission, Sins of Comission, Sins of Transmission

Somebody's got to do it, so here we go....When covering Jerry Roberts's press conference on Sunday in response to the News-Press's claims about his former computer and child pornography, Matt Kettmann reports on the Independent website:

The press event was attended by about 30 journalists, including the nearly 20 who crammed into Merenbach’s second-floor office on East Carrillo Street, a plethora of former N-P reporters, and one current reporter from the News-Press.

That last phrase is really important. In the News-Press article on Sunday, they showed no sign of contacting the accused--ok, the insinuated--and from what Roberts said on Sunday, they didn't ask him anything about these charges before running the non-bylined front-page story. Still, they felt this story about a computer used by many and bought used was worth running on their front page, which seems to mean it's a story worth following and anything related to it should later be reported at least somewhere in the paper.

What appeared in Monday's edition from that "one current reporter from the News-Press"? Nothing. (Hat-tip to Bob Guiliano in a comment on Blogabarbara for pointing this out.)

So, how does a story worthy of front page coverage one day devolve into not being covered at all the next day? And it's not like the News-Press couldn't get a story in on time. The Independent, a weekly (with a very much amped up web presence and a great new web redesign) had two stories (a news article by Nick Welsh and a media blog by Kettmann) up before the sun set. The Daily Sound, temporarily down to one main reporter, got a story in about the Roberts' press conference right on page 1. Even the New York Times worked in Roberts' press conference in their overall article about the latest sordid events in this struggle against intractable management.

So, how is this journalism? How do you work for a paper, no matter what part of the paper you work for, when this is its model of journalistic "integrity"--to accuse someone of something heinous and never ever let him get in his words of defense? Where's the balance there, especially in an age when journalists tend to look for the opposing opinion even on issues science has settled? I'm not going to name any names as I like some people still inside fortress McCaw, but I have no idea how they can look at themselves in the mirror at this point. "News-Press Staff Report" means all of you. And if you all just quit, at least walked out for a day or two, well, that might change things. I'm talking to you freelancers too.

I know it's easy for me to say this as it's not my livelihood at stake. But if you ever want to get a job anywhere else and you have the News-Press on your resume, how will that help your career at this point? Might as well say that you worked at Sleazeball Inc.

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Anonymous kusala said...

I'd seriously like to know who the reporter was who was at the news conference. No one has mentioned a name. Is there some ethical standard that says you can't report who is at a public news conference?

I agree that it's time to call these people out, and that there are sins of comission going on and that people who remain with such an unethical organization are accomplices of some sort. What's that line about people who, in times of moral crisis, choose to remain "neutral"?

8:50 AM  
Anonymous Numfar said...


Pero si, yo puedo.

8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can someone with an existing advertising relationship, buy and bigger add, then then insert appropriate text by Mr Roberts...

I say existing relationship, because they might be able to slip in a eps file, with a preview that is not the real file file... when it goes to press, bamn, mr roberts would like an apology, inserted in press run.

9:05 AM  
Anonymous In the Room Sunday afternoon said...

Hannah Guzik was the Newspress reporter present during the Roberts news conference on that Sunday. She asked one question about whether Roberts placed the porn on that computer. He said no. That was it, but I suppose she had to ask.

Roberts attorney said a Newspress reporter was asked to be there as a way to facilitate their later retraction or actually correct article. That was wishful thinking of course, but a necessary exercise.

Guzik only writes what Steepleton tells her. She is essentially a labor scab, hired as a supposed replacement writer freshly out of college, just like Bethany Hopkins there and Leana Orsua, who has a couple of years more experience but it does not show.

The longer these scabs stay at the Newspress, the more damaged their careers will be, if they really intend to have careers. Vlad Kogan was the same and got skewered for it, but he eventually mustered some courage and left to return to San Diego to write for a web-based news outlet.

The remaining workers, many of whom voted for the unionization, are very stuck in a bad situation if they want to remain in the news business and live in Santa Barbara without being independently wealthy. They deserve some pity and understanding, but the situation is entirely different for the scabs who are just opportunists at the expense of experienced and ethical reporters.

The public is the real victim here, as the deep news is not getting reported because the Newspress has no bodies to do the reporting and writing, and when they do get to a story it often is very very weak and a joke.

10:35 AM  
Anonymous kusala said...

Thanks for the comment, In the Room.

One more question that comes to mind is: How long can Scott Steepleton handle this stint as the primary editor/writer at that joint? I mean, it's not as if the content is that overwhelming these days, but even given that fact, it seems like the position Steepleton is in would be at serious risk for major burnout at some point, no?

10:59 AM  
Blogger Trekking Left said...

kusala - I had some thoughts on that myself ==>

George - Great post. I like your observation that journalism today is all about being "fair and balanced" to the extreme (e.g. the global warming debate), which makes the NP article all the more horrible.

11:18 AM  
Anonymous In the Room Sunday afternoon said...

Steepleton has nowhere else to go.

He has drifted among newspapers and this is his last refuge and will do anything to keep up his income. He was universally loathed by the credible news reporters who were once at the Newspress.

And now with the Federal judge essentially calling him a liar under oath during a legal hearing, Steepleton is total toast and has nowhere else to go but to be a hack for the Wendinator.

His articles during past few months have included plenty of bias and inuendo about the subjects and events, drawing lots of conclusions and taking plenty of jabs.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Here here, George! Good call out. The scabs deserve no quarter. The timid and the trapped? Well, if they have any integrity or civic sensibility, they should at least be sending around their resumes.

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Numfar said...

George, you know who I am and what I do in Wendy's little empire. Although I've wrestled with the morality of my association, it's been a pretty good gig. I wouldn't leave it lightly, but that time is coming very soon.

What I'm writing for, though, is to defend my friends and colleagues who don't have the luxury of instant moral gratification. You're right: it is easy for you to say that everybody should just quit in protest. But you bloody well know that it's not so simple.

Consider one of my close friends. She's one of the finest human beings I've ever known, but she's also a single mom with a mortgage and no immediate prospects. Should she quit to satisfy anyone's sense of outrage?

I know another woman, not in the newsroom, who's been there more than 20 years. She'll soon have her first child. What greater good would she serve by leaving tomorrow?

I could offer a dozen other examples of people for whom a quick exit is not an option. And let's not forget that there are plenty of people there sticking it out just to keep the union alive.

The fact is, and I'm sure you've not forgotten, is that this is Santa Barbara, which consumes and shits people of good intentions every day. Fall behind and it's not long before you're faced with pushing a grocery cart or moving to Barstow.

It's true that there have been people who quit without a safety net. Jerry Roberts, Don Murphy, George Foulsham, Gerry Spratt, Scott Hadly and others are heroes in my book, guys with whom I'd share a foxhole or a beer any day. Hell, I spent years working with some of them. But their heroics shouldn't diminish those left behind.

I've beaten this to death and I'm sick of the apologia. I believe I'll have a nice glass of port and go to bed.

9:52 PM  
Blogger George said...

Really, I admit it's too glib of me to insist other people should quit their jobs. That said, I'm more concerned about those folks who have thier name in the paper--how are they not complicit, just by that? I would hope that people leave not to satisfy anyone's sense of outrage but to satisfy their own sense of outrage.

Sorry, Numfar.

11:37 PM  
Blogger Trekking Left said...

numfar - I'm very close to someone who was fired from the NP, and I would ask you to consider this ... staying at or leaving the NP may not ultimately be your choice.

Look at Anna Davison. She was fired for quoting Marty Blum too much. And her Editor was fired for supporting her. Wendy and Co. are so trigger happy on the firings that they will get rid of someone for looking at them funny.

I think many of the people fired from the NP thought that keeping their mouths shut and doing their jobs well was enough. That's clearly not the case. Wendy is at war with her staff, and she doesn't care if you have a kid or have a hard time paying your mortgage or whatever. If you don't walk on four legs, you are irrelevant.

Don't you come into work every day wondering if today is the day Yolanda comes over and asks to speak with you in her office? Is that less stressful than looking elsewhere for employment? I'm not telling you what to do. I'm just saying that you should keep your eyes open and protect yourself.

1:28 PM  
Anonymous numfar said...

Point taken, George. Any decision to leave should be one's own. Peer pressure sucks. (BTW, the N-P is blocking access to INOTB.)

And you couldn't be more right, TL. I've spent most of the past year trying not to look over my shoulder. It wears on you, and I've about hit my limit.

Thanks for the kind words.

2:37 PM  
Blogger George said...

How exciting--I'm not blocked in China but am blocked on De La Guerra Plaza!

3:37 PM  
Blogger George said...

Maybe I'm not blocked on DLG Plaza, for my counter just registered the following:


IP Address

25 Apr, Wed, 16:09:45

4:24 PM  
Anonymous numfar said...

It's possible the IT folks haven't finished blocking everybody. My access was blocked nearly a week after others started getting the UNAUTHORIZED message.

But it's also possible that somebody down there is monitoring sites. If they'll smear Roberts in the sneakiest, sleaziest way possible ...

Be interesting to see how often you get hits from an N-P IP.

8:04 AM  

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