Monday, December 10, 2007

Eric Deggans: Media Critic That Won't Criticize His Employer

I'm a fan of Eric's work, but he always defends the St. Petersburg Times. Deggans defends The St. Petersburg Times blacking out vulgar language in the transcript of Jessica Sierra's arrest.


Maybe i’m old fashioned. But I think the word censored should be reserved for omissions of higher importance than this one.


Sigh. Given that we already said in news stories that she offered oral sex to the office and hurled racial slurs at him after the arrest, I’m not all that worked up over the blackouts. I do wish we had given readers the choice to click through to an uncensored report, with knowledge that they would see some baldfaced language…


Political Whore blogger Wayne Garcia made the point that the internet is not the same as the family print edition of the Times. How many kids are going to read a pdf dirty words of a Z list celebrity? It makes little sense to treat online readers as if they were children.

Deggans is a media critic that never sees fault with his employer. Case in point is the Times handling of sitting on the Mark Foley story.


It's enough of a judgment call that I don't blame our reporters for deciding not to run the story -- though I wish we had gotten to the bottom of this before other media outlets did.


The email scandal which forced West Palm Beach Congressman Mark Foley to resign keeps getting weirder and weirder -- especially for the media.


The Times' government and politics editor filed a long-ish blog post Saturday explaining why we never wrote a story on Foley's milder emails to a page last year, even though we learned of them back then. Of course, it's easy to second-guess such judgments in hindsight, but if a similar flap earlier this year involving allegations against Charlie Crist proves anything, it's that we move carefully when it comes to explosive allegations which might be a disguised political attack, especially close to an election.


Foley's seat was safe. It wasn't a secret that CREW gave the FBI the original emails. The emails came from pages, not Democratic political operatives. The Times questioned one Louisiana page and blew him off. If a teenager went to the Times about a teacher sending these kind of emails, the Times would run with it and question the teacher. The Times never asked Foley if the email came from his office.

Eric Deggans makes a poor ombudsman for the Times. He ran a Times talking point.


Of course, it's easy to second-guess such judgments in hindsight, but if a similar flap earlier this year involving allegations against Charlie Crist proves anything, it's that we move carefully when it comes to explosive allegations which might be a disguised political attack, especially close to an election.


NEIL BROWN, Executive Editor:


In the days before the September primary, this newspaper was tipped to allegations about the personal life of Republican gubernatorial front-runner Charlie Crist, including a charge that he was involved in a paternity dispute over the birth of a girl 17 years ago.


If the Times truly believed this was a political attack than it would have been a major news story to expose the perpetrator. Politico exposed the anti-Muslim smear email on Barack Obama by the Hillary Clinton campaign. The Times thought it might be a smear, but didn't investigate further. That excuse doesn't make sense.

It was common knowledge that Foley was gay. That can hardly be called a rumor. That is why Foley didn't run for the Senate in 2006. Pages were warned to avoid Foley. Foley believed his political clout shielded him from repercussions. The Times justified Foley's mightier-than-God attitude.

Charlie Crist is a totally different subject than Foley. The Times compares rumors of a gay man having sex with other adults to a sexual predator. That is insulting to the gay community. Did the Times even hand the emails to law enforcement? That would have been the responsible thing to do. The best Deggans can do is say is the Times did nothing wrong. Actually, the Times did nothing. That is why people were upset with the newspaper.

Update: PoHo on My Deggans Post

Labels: , ,

1 Comments:

At December 12, 2007 1:26 PM , Blogger Eric Deggans said...

I am always a little dismayed at the criticism directed at me that seems a little off target. This item, to me, seems particularly harsh.

The fact is, I have found fault with many things my employer has done, most notably, the April TBT headline "He Died of Shame," which accompanied a story on WFLA weatherman John winter's suicide.

I wrote a direct criticism of that headline on my blog which was picked up by many national media blogs, including Poynter's Romenesko site and Mediabistro.com. I did it with little or no discussion with superiors and no idea what the professional consequences would be.

I also criticized TBT's pattern of running in-your face headlines to go with stories written for our main paper which are more fairly balanced.

When the New York Times ran a blindingly complimentary article about our business model, I wrote a blog post which pointed out that it was a mistaken hypothesis, given all the reductions we're going through these days.

And this is nothing new: When Columbia Journalism Review came here to do what turned out to be a puff piece on our newspaper, i was the only staffer quoted who said something non-complimentary, when i stressed that the newspaper had a problem with its lack of staff diversity.

True enough, I haven't lodged the kind of shrill complaints you may have seen elsewhere about our size reductions or the daily TBT or our coverage of rap music. But that's partly because I can't help seeing those issues in different terms because I work here and I know these projects from the inside out.

Wayne's right. I'm not an ombudsman . I don't have a contract which guarantees my employment no matter what I write. My main job isn't even covering the newspaper industry; it's covering television. So I have to pick my shots carefully.

But I do try to call issues as i see them and criticize my employer when it is fair and necessary.

I think people of good conscience can agree to disagree on whether I've made the right call every time.

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home