March 10, 2008

Post-Dispatch responds to bullying charge

I received the following email from the the Post-Dispatch on Friday;

  • Mr. Fischer: As promised, we have looked into your concerns regarding our story and reporter Paul Hampel. After discussions with the reporter and the subject, we feel both our reporting and our article were accurate, fair and responsible in dealing with a very sensitive and newsworthy topic. We believe the story humanized a current tension point in city halls across the area: the rights of citizens to hold public officials accountable vs. the rights of public officials to attempt to limit that access -- rightly or wrongly -- to ensure public safety. The story in no way cast aspersions on anyone. We will just have to agree to disagree on this one.
    Adam Goodman
    Assistant Managing Editor/Metro
    St. Louis Post-Dispatch

First, these are not my concerns but are the concerns of many people who read the article. My posts on the article, "After Kirkwood shootings, gadflies under the microscope," are by far the most read posts on my blog. ( The following posts are about the article; Post-Dispatch platform is a fraud, Has Post-Dispatch resorted to bullying widows to make news? and Update on Post-Dispatch attack on citizen activism. I have received more comments and emails on this subject than any other issue I have addressed and unfortunately many people have simply given up on our only daily paper.

As to the Post-Dispatch "looking into this article" here is what I know they did. Chris Ave, the editor who approved the story, contacted Ms. Waters. Ave told her he did not see any problems with the story and repeatedly told her there was nothing "factually wrong" with the article. Ave told Ms. Waters it was not his decision whether a retraction would be done or an apology given but that he felt none was needed. He did tell Ms. Waters he was sorry the story upset her.

In regard to the email from Mr. Goodman, notice how the he frames the issue now; "the rights of citizens to hold public officials accountable vs. the rights of public officials to attempt to limit that access -- rightly or wrongly -- to ensure public safety." While that might have been a good article it is clearly not the article which was published. From the headline to the side bar this article accepted as fact the perception by some officials that citizens involved in local government are annoying at best and possibly a threat. Gadfly is not a term of endearment for citizen activists, nor is a psychiatrist necessary to look into their motives.

As to the decision of the Post to stand behind its article, this should come as a surprise to no one. Of course, the paper cares about any attacks on its credibility and for that reason the Post-Dispatch and its owner, Lee Enterprises, have been viewing my site at record numbers. They have also been running Google searches under various themes such as, "hampel and gadfly and post-dispatch." Why? Because, in my opinion, what the Post is really concerned about is that someone with a wider audience then mine will pick up on this story. There isn't an argument to be made that the article written by Paul Hampel was anything other than an unwarranted attack on three citizens who dare to get involved in local government. If the Post were to admit its mistake or if this story was to gain a wider audience, the Post would have to defend the article itself and the decision not to do anything about it. They hope by ignoring this issue, their own little "gadfly" will go away.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rick thank you for following up on this issue. Is the Post going to discourage every citizen next who participate's in their government.

How can they get away with this irresponsible reporting?
I feel for these poor people and their family's.