“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Friday, February 23, 2007

Captain's Log, Supplemental: I was wrong / self destruction's got me again

If I may bring this discussion back to the Globe-News:

Spacedark wrote a very nice piece that entertained an elucidated. But it raises some questions and prompted me to add more to this blog about the AGN.

And on that score, Spacedark is right about the inconsistency between Les’ scorn of blogs and his paper’s TalkAmarillo Forum. And while much of it is puerile and vapid, it’s also an interesting place to get story ideas. The other thing about it is to me interesting: unlike a blog, it seems to be a community of people who need one another. Are they homebound? Lonely? I won’t go there, but I have some charity for them.

When Spacedark writes that “(Les Simpson’s) newspaper’s relationship with at least one local hospital is cozier than objectivity would demand, if such a thing existed. And, as a consequence, we know that any Globe-Republican reportage regarding health care is inherently suspect,” does that mean anything The Amarillo Independent writes about health care suspect, too?

When I was at the AGN, I went into ORs at Northwest, BSA and the Surgery Center on Soncy. Does that mean the stories then were spun in one direction or the other?

And, looking back on the charity care story we did on BSA, was that inherently slanted because of the content or because we reported it at all? Was it slanted because part of the issue was BSA’s obligation under state law to meet its nonprofit status was to provide charity care, but as a for-profit, Northwest wasn’t under those same rule?

What does the Indy’s candor on bias do for our credibility? Does it affect all our stories or only those on health care? Or, on politics?

Now, I’ve always wondered why the cozy relationship between BSA and Les Sensational. The obvious answer is the million of dollars BSA throws at the AGN. And since Morris Communications cares for little but the bottom-line (in others words, journalism be damned, fill up the paper with ads), that might be part of the story. But there is something deeper than that, which I suspect revolves more about being Baptist and fundamentalist than golf and martinis. Trying to label it is hard, and the closes I can come to it is those little self-satisfied smirks we get from the likes of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Howie Batson.

As for the comment I made earlier about John being on vacation, that’s the M.O. You get put on paid leave and then you come back to get fired or demoted. That give Les time to cover his ass with corporate — which if we could be flies on the wall here and in Augusta, that would be interesting. Why? Well, for one thing, Morris has a progressive discipline policy, so you gotta get written up a little bit before they execute you. I can’t say whether that’s happened for John, but since this is an employment at will state, ultimately it doesn’t matter; except, that even in an employment at will state, the employer can lose if he failed to follow his own policies. The trick here is to get a lawyer in Amarillo to take on the AGN.

But, there’s more. Let’s see, is anyone at Morris asking about all the turnover, especially of those over age 50. There are people in the newsroom who either chose to leave, were given a clear message and left or were fired. I won’t differentiate to preserve the privacy of those involved, but going back to 2003, here are some of those over 50: Garett Van Netzer, Kathy Martindale, Ralph Routon, Beth Duke, Vivian Salazar, Jim Crawford, Greg Rohloff, Dwayne Harnett and me. (Disclosure: I left on my own when the new executive editor, Dawn Dressler, started to harass me.) These people also had in common some fair amount of seniority. And consider, too, Jon Mark’s demotion and add John to the list.

As for process and procedures, Les the Brave gets copies of the editorial and op-ed page. At least, they get on his desk so he has the chance to read them. I know this because the editorial department (John, Dave Henry and Debbie) would walk right by me desk to get down the stairwell to the publisher’s office. Now I’ve been away for well over a year, so I don’t know what may have happened, but I have to wonder. The editorial department doesn’t work on weekends, so that Monday page might have gone over on a Friday. Whether it did this time or not, I don’t know except to say I have a source who told me the page went down.

How Les treats his people, of course, is up to him. So you can draw your own conclusions about if he made/is making John the fall guy.

What also interests me in Les the Slick’s piece last Sunday would be how, with three people in that department, they will vet every op-ed piece and letter. I mean, how else you can interpret what the Sunday thing said. Will they check all the facts in Van Camp’s copy? Or Greg Sagan? Or William Sewald’s? And what about the fact-checking the big national columnists?

I hope this information helps folks understand more of the print landscape in Amarillo.