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Pat Berry
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The following is the comment that I tried to post to Calvan's blog. (Blackfive.net doesn't use WordPress, so I trust it will be able to handle an 887-word comment.) -------- Mr. Calvan: Putting your blog back up and restoring the original version of "Simply Simpatico" is a step in the right direction. But I'm afraid you still haven't really grasped the significance of what happened. You didn't just make one mistake. You made a series of mistakes, each of which aggravated the seriousness of the original offense. 1. You were rude and arrogant to the soldier at the Green Zone checkpoint. 2. You boasted about this in your blog. 3. When your readers gave you feedback telling you this was offensive, you responded by modifying the post to hide what you originally wrote. 4. When that didn't stop the angry feedback, you attempted to silence your critics by disabling comments. 5. When the criticism continued on other sites, you hid your entire blog by taking it offline. Actions 1 and 2 have been summed up by your critics as "behaving like a jerk", and I think you understand now why that was a mistake. But actions 3, 4, and 5 constitute a coverup, and you don't seem to have any understanding of why that is unacceptable. You should. You are a journalist, and if there is any chapter of history that journalists are thoroughly familiar with, it is Watergate. What brought down Richard Nixon? It wasn't the petty burglary that he authorized. It was his attempt to cover it up. Go and look up "Cover-up" in Wikipedia. The first sentence of that article is this: "When a scandal breaks, the discovery of an attempt to cover up or conceal the evidence of wrongdoing is often regarded as even more scandalous than the original deeds." Every journalist understands this, but some journalists seem to think that it only applies to the people they write about. No, sir; it applies to you as well. Are you completely unaware of the meltdown currently taking place at The New Republic? The problem there is not that TNR's "Baghdad Diarist" fabricated some stories that slandered his fellow soldiers, and that TNR published them without any attempt at fact-checking. That would have been an embarrassment for TNR, but one that the magazine could recover from. When critics pointed out that the Diarist's claims were implausible and could not be substantiated, the TNR editors could have salvaged the situation by immediately investigating the matter, retracting the story, and apologizing for their error. But the TNR editors chose to attempt a coverup by lying and stonewalling. As a result, the magazine's credibility is now nonexistent, and the editorial staff are probably going to lose their jobs. It's not the initial mistake that gets you. It's the coverup. If you learn nothing else from this episode, you should at least learn that. In the course of your apology, you make several statements like "I should have made this blog private" and "I shared too much". This is still the coverup mentality talking. Essentially, what you are saying is that if only you had managed to keep your bullying of the Green Zone soldier a secret, known only to your friends and family, then everything would have been OK. Your mistake was not that you acted like an arrogant jerk, but that you got caught. This is not correct. Reprehensible behavior is still reprehensible even if you succeed in concealing it from the world. Regarding your coverup, you write: "Unfortunately, my actions were yet another faux pas, I was told; I should have left up the post and created a new one to share my reactions and issue an apology." The implication is that this is some quaint rule of "the blogosphere" that you were ignorant of because you are new to blogging. But that is disingenuous. Destroying evidence and falsifying records to hide the truth about your misdeeds is atrocious behavior in any context. Is it acceptable for corrupt corporate executives to shred documents in order to eliminate the paper trail of their crimes? For Stalinist governments to alter photographs and rewrite history books to conceal the truth about their past? For unethical prosecutors to destroy evidence that would prove a defendant's innocence? Trying to blot out the truth isn't a "faux pas"; it is dishonest. And your pretense that you are unfamiliar with this concept is not believable. This isn't about some alien culture called "the blogosphere". The folks who objected to your behavior are the public. Your readers. The people whom you are supposed to be informing about the world. You can try to make your blog private if you want, but you still have to answer to the public that you allegedly serve. Blocking comments and ignoring e-mails will only ensure that you operate in a state of ignorance, not knowing or caring how your actions are perceived by the rest of us. How would you regard government officials or corporate executives who displayed that sort of attitude toward the public? Would your coverage of them be as forgiving as you are asking us to be? You have a rare opportunity here. You can try to listen to your readers, learn from their feedback, and use what you learn to become a better journalist. Or you can put up a wall and hide behind it. The choice is up to you.
Toggle Commented Nov 12, 2007 on Is the Sac Bee really this clueless? at BlackFive
1 reply
MAVCON, he posted an article that included the words "Consider this my apology." But there is nothing apologetic about it. His main points are "Sometimes I share too much", "I probably should have made the blog private", and "I'm new to blogging and wasn't familiar with the blogosphere's silly little arbitrary rules." On October 26, I wrote a fairly long comment (887 words) in which I explained why I thought his response was inadequate and disingenuous. But apparently the WordPress software can't handle a comment of that length. The comments on Calvan's blog have been broken ever since -- if you try to view them, you see this message:WordPress database error: [Table 'wp_comments' is marked as crashed and should be repaired] SELECT * FROM wp_comments WHERE comment_post_ID = '14' AND comment_approved = '1' ORDER BY comment_dateCalvan either hasn't noticed the problem or can't figure out how to correct it. (Or perhaps he's decided that he likes having comments disabled.) I regret having accidentally broken that function of his blog, but I had no idea it was even possible to do so just by posting a long comment. I've seen longer comments on many other blogs.
Toggle Commented Nov 12, 2007 on Is the Sac Bee really this clueless? at BlackFive
1 reply