Monday, May 17, 2010

Corrections: Because a bad legal opinion....

The other day on this post regarding the Metro response to the "Buy America" regulations I framed the post in a manner that suggested the reporter in question (Mike Snyder of Chron.com) was working as a de facto PR reporter for Metro.

Mr. Snyder offered up the following response via e-mail:
You write: “It was nice of Metro to provide this information to Snyder so he could put it out there for him” (I assume you meant “for them,” meaning “for Metro.”) The implication is that they spoon-fed this to me because they were confident, since I’m a PR shill for Metro and all, that I would report it in the most favorable way from their point of view.


What actually happened is that I reported, which is what reporters do. I knew that Metro’s response to the Buy America investigation (a story that I broke, by the way) was due by Friday. I asked them EVERY DAY last week to provide it to me as soon as it was ready. Friday afternoon they called me and said it had been sent to the FTA, and I went to their headquarters and picked up a copy of the letter and the supporting exhibits. I interviewed two Metro board members and got a statement from the FTA which I included in the story.


Thank you Mr. Snyder for filling us in on the leg-work that led to this information being printed. HCA appreciates the response.


Mea Culpa time: It's no secret that I'm no fan of Chronblog, but my displeasure typically lies with the members of the masthead, the decision-making editorial staff and opinion writers. I very seldom intend to write posts that reflect negatively on the reporter in question, not knowing the editorial decisions that led to any story appearing in the newspaper or on the site. After re-reading the original blog-post it was phrased in a manner that was more personal toward Mr. Snyder than I had originally intended. My beef is not with him, but with a newspaper who's entire editorial process regarding Metro is called into question by the presence of the oft-discussed 'rail memo', something I feel has never been adequately addressed by the editorial leadership at ChronBlog. (In fact, their response was the old "internal memo" cop-out).

For that I do apologize. And no, I'm not saying that just to avoid a libel suit. Mr. Snyder e-mailed me and the discussion surrounding the post was very professional. Whatever other disagreements we may have (and they are many) his interaction with me regarding my blog has always been professional.

As I've stated before: The purpose of HCA is to present my opinion on matters. If facts come up that prove my opinion wrong then I will gladly correct them rapidly and prominently in an open manner. Thank you to Mr. Snyder for providing additional detail which shed further light on this story.

1 comment:

  1. After reading this post and the original several times, I guess I'm still not sure what was being corrected.

    I know some folks read every word quite literally, and I suppose that clarification Snyder sent you was helpful for anybody who thought you were literally documenting the process of his reporting. I can't imagine why any semi-intelligent reader would interpret that post so literally, but this is a useful clarification for those who did I suppose.

    Snyder's email was most interesting to me for what it revealed about METRO. Now, maybe policies have changed at the "new" METRO. That's one possibility. But I know at the "old" METRO that if you or I had tried to get the information that was readily provided to Mr. Snyder, we would have been told sure -- fill out a public information request. After the required time, we might get our information. Or we might get referred to the Attorney General. I say this because that's EXACTLY what I know has happened when, say, Tom Bazan or Paul Magaziner has requested information.

    Now, like I said, it may well be true that the "new" METRO is going to be much more open and helpful to reporters and the public alike when it comes to OUR information. But I'm pretty sure that METRO is an organization that, at least in the past, has doled out information helpful to its agenda to reporters who are thought to be "friendly" (that would include pretty much any Chron reporter who's been on that beat from 2004 or so, with the possible exception of Rosanna Ruiz) and stonewalled others.

    As an establishment newspaper, the Chronicle frequently takes on a cheerleading role, and some reporters seem to bend over backwards to tell the best possible story about the organizations they are covering. It keeps the sources friendly, it's collegial, and it maintains a reputation of "fairness" I suppose.

    Great for the sources! Not so great for the public/taxpayers, though. I wish more journalists would be advocates for the public/taxpayers.

    I think much of your and my criticism of the Chronicle is that the cheerleader role comes at the expense of true watchdog reporting. I am not advocating that reporters treat the organizations they are covering unfairly, but I would prefer a little more skepticism and curiosity about organizations that are spending OUR money. In my view, the job of a professional journalist is to act as the eyes/ears of the PUBLIC, and be a watchdog of those organizations (as opposed to, say, a watchdog of TV news reporters and bloggers! LOL). METRO specifically has a huge PR staff that should be capable of presenting their perspective. The job of a professional journalist should be different, in my view. And if that occasionally makes the PR staff sources at the organization uncomfortable with the reporter from time to time, so be it.

    Turning to the story in question -- sure, it advanced a developing story a bit. It probably even deserves a little "attaboy!" But I'm not so sure it rises to the level of Woodward/Bernstein.... so yeah, whatever. :)

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