March 04, 2008

Post-Dispatch platform is a fraud

  • "I know that my retirement will make no difference in its cardinal principles, that it will always fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, always fight demagogues of all parties, never belong to any party, always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news, always be drastically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty." statement by Joseph Pulitzer, April 10, 1907

  • "What a bunch of crap." statement by Rick Fischer, March 4, 2008

I just ran across an article in yesterday's Post-Dispatch titled, After Kirkwood shootings, gadflies under the microscope. It is one of the most insulting, condescending, hateful articles I have seen in the Post in the last day. Lets start with the headline which describes those who participate in local government as gadflies-a person who stimulates or annoys especially by persistent criticism. Right off the bat the Post is telling its readers what it thinks of citizens who take the time to get involved, "we thought they were nothing more than annoying pests but now we have to consider whether they are dangerous!"

The writer, Paul Hampel, then discusses three "gadflies" in an attempt to make anyone who dares to follow local government seem clinically insane. In fact, the writer talks to a psychiatrist about what is wrong with these people and whether they could be dangerous.

  • "Our ability in behavioral medicine to predict violence on the part of the average citizen is very, very poor," said Dr. Paul Packman, a psychiatrist at St. John's Mercy Medical Center. "We don't understand at what point does someone decide, 'OK, this is it.'"

  • For some people, such meetings constitute a social life, said Packman, the psychiatrist." Being a committed gadfly is their only dynamic, if you will, in which they're interacting with people," he said. Others, he said, may attend because they failed to get elected and see meetings as their only avenue of influence. For some, public forums are entertainment. And then there are those who feel a great sense of responsibility that is out of proportion to their ability to affect change."These are people who feel very strongly as do-gooders, but these types tend to fall out of such systems when they realize that they have very little impact," Packman said.

Even worse, here is how the reporter frames the issue in speaking about Arnie Dienoff, a regular at meetings in Bellfontaine Neighbors; "Dienoff, who denies he would ever hurt anyone..." What was Hampel, who denies he would ever plagiarize, thinking? While Hampel, who denies he is an arrogant pin head, does everything to convince his readers Dienhoff is odd, there is no hint of any violence in Dienhoff's actions.

Hampel, who denies being a fascist, then asks the "gadflies" if they might be violent. To the best of my knowledge, the tragedy in Kirkwood was the first time a "gadfly" has gone on a shooting rampage in the area in...forever, but we do have a whole lot of politicians who are corrupt. Do you think Mr. Hampel, who denies having a clue, would write, "Senator Bond, who denies being a corrupt politician..?" Or conduct an interview in which he asked, "Now Senator McCaskill, could you ever see yourself taking kickbacks or bribes?" Of course not, because that would be a) stupid, b) poor journalism and c) stupid. But Hampel, who denies being a poor journalist and stupid, thinks nothing of it when covering the silly people who dare to keep an eye on local government.

Maybe if the Post and Hampel started covering local politics and reporting on it truthfully, he would have less of an elitist view on the subject. In fact, maybe a good place for him to start would be if he read the paper's platform and do something no one at the Post seems to be willing to do, follow it!


Anonymous said...

This reporter called one of the concerned citizens who have been active in local government for this article and lied and told this person he was wanted to talk to her about "property values" because she was a trustee and he said had heard from another reporter she would have a good grasp on propery values, then he started to sneak in the questions about her speaking up in her city for all the right reasons. He tricked her and never reported anything at all about "PROPERY VALUES" He tried to catch her off guard to paint her out to be a crazy person. The way I feel this paper did a big favor to the city she spoke up against to try to paint a honest citizens out to be crazy because she spoke up about issues that concern a whole lot of people in her area. THIS IS THE WORST KIND OF JOURNALISIM. I believe it is dishonet and dirty.

If they would report the truth in stead of making the "PEOPLE" look bad for coming to the city with genuine concern this would be a better community. Shame of Paul Hampel said...

Here, we have a "writer" (Mr Hampel) who works for a newspaper whose policies are declared to be "devoted to the public welfare" and he writes an article that seriously discourages citizens from participating in the public meetings involving their own government. What a signal to corrupt politicians that they can count on the media to protect them from public observation and criticism for what ever they do! It seems that Mr Hampel believes the 1st Amendment was a big mistake? I guess the Sunshine laws are also a big mistake? All of these citizen protections were passed, I guess, just to keep the "gadflies" and Psychiatrists happy? Oh, and newspaper reporters that use the news to "suck up" to their publishers in order to protect their revenue stream. That's "ethical" journalism, right?

Anonymous said...

This is the problem with St. Louis being a one newspaper town. We have Journalist's who feel that they are 1st amendment rights are a mistake. The Post is aligned with thier advertisers and the Democratic party. Until people have other choices for their newspaper this won't change.

Rick Fischer said...

I have asked Mr. Hampel to respond to the allegations that he mislead one of the individuals he interviewed. I will be following up on this information and I hope the Post-Dispatch is also looking into the allegation.

Anonymous said...

I think I will cancel my "Post Dispatch" These guys are trying shut people up to help the various citys. This article makes it very obvious what the game is. Most of the time they only tell a portion of the truth about what is going on with these city's. I find this really disturbing. Those people deserve an seriou apoligy. This guy should be fired.

Anonymous said...

What a disgusting article. Those of us who care enough to get involved in our local governments are now termed as "gadflies".
There are many tactics governments use to keep citizens from being involved. One of the most effective tactics is to place a derogatory label on the opposition. I would expect Mr. Hampel to receive a number of "Thank You" notes from local governments in the St. Louis area. Thank you from Mayor Rudloff, "I've been trying to label that darn Mr. Dienoff for years so people will stop listening to him.With the Post's backing I am quite sure it will stick." Thank you from St. Peter's and other cities that will quote the article as they point at citizen's who oppose actions undertaken by the municipal leaders.
Maybe an article about despotic government abuses would bring a balance, abuses with Tax Increment Financing or eminent domain. How about an article that outlines the governmental abuses local "gadflies" have to live with everyday.
One can only imagine that over 200 years ago King George's court labeled the American Colonist the same but the term was "Yankee Doodle" not "gadfly".

Anonymous said...

I was also offended by this article and found it very condescending. Rick this is your best blog post ever. The Post needs to apologize to caring citizens everywhere.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for exposing these tactics of the Post Dispatch. I am so offended that they have the nerve to label citizens who are coming to their City with serious concerns. It really makes you wonder how many victims there have been. Way to go Rick, I have to Thank you for having the courage to " TELL IT LIKE IT IS.

Anonymous said...

This is the reason the St Louis Post need to say they are sorry to Mrs Waters who is a wonderful citizens in every way. I feel the Post Dispatch
a) decieved
b) compared to a killer
c) referred to as an annoyance or nuisance
d) whose character and reputation challenged/damaged

No citizen should tolerate this kind of treatment. I am familiar with Mrs Waters outstanding character in this community. Mrs Waters is a taxpayer and has a right to come to her own city with valid concerns as she did. Many citizens are too busy to find out what is going on with respect to their community. Bravo to Mrs Waters for speaking up and doing the right thing. I hope the Post will give Mrs Waters her good name back.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Mrs. Waters could sue the reporter and the Post for libel for being characterized as a potentially violent psychopath or unethically misrepresenting his reporting purposes? Hampel seems to be representing closed door government and big politicians now.
What a complete pile of crap his story was.

Clean Water Now said...


You are right on here. Was this stupid, irresponsible and lazy story an effort to push "participatory" out of our "participatory democracy"?

Citizen advocates play a crucial role in our democracy - the examples of their service are myriad - from exposing misdeeds and corruption to lives being saved - not to mention tax payer dollars.

The Post should take some disciplinary action and apologize to the citizens in the region who bother to pay attention to local government - often much more attention than the Post itself does.

Anonymous said...

As an long-time community activist, I found Rick's comments right on the money. I was also struck by the article's tone and implications and felt like anyone who wants to be a participatory citizen now has a crosshair on our back--or will at least be looked upon with suspicious and anticipation. Will a move to a briefcase to get a pen or Kleenex be misconstrued as reaching for an Uzi? Hampel's article fits right in with the current trend to silence any opposition, whether it is towards government or in general. We live in dangerous times and I maintain that most of our lack of personal and national security lies at the foot of government policy and actions. Jamala Rogers