The [Monday] Papers
My favorite part of Sunday's New York Times piece on the "messaging" struggles of Obama media maven David Axelrod:
"Others question what happened to the Mr. Axelrod who so effectively marketed Mr. Obama, the candidate, as a change agent. He and some defenders, though, say that trying to explain a president who is dealing with a fusillade of difficult governing issues is far different.
"'In a campaign, you're not held to the same standard of actually doing what you say you're going to do,' said Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director and Obama campaign adviser."
"Recently filed court records in the criminal case of developer Calvin Boender provide broad outlines about the jobs that went to relatives of U.S. Rep.Luis Gutierrez, Ald. Emma Mitts, 37th, and former Ald. Isaac 'Ike' Carothers, 29th.
"Gutierrez's sister-in-law was hired to sell real estate; Mitt's daughter was hired as a laborer; and Carothers' brother was selected to provide security."
A) Just another Chicago Coincidence.
B) Hey, relatives may have opened the door but they still had to nail their interviews all by themselves to get the jobs.
C) Just another Chicago Coincidence.
"Reached by telephone, Gutierrez declined to say how or when his sister-in-law Jeanette Torres was hired by Red Seal Development Corp., one of Boender's partners on the project. He then hung up."
A) How I as a United States congressman arranged a job for my sister-in-law with a now-indicted developer is none of your business!
B) I may have arranged the job, but she had to nail her interview!
C) [Sound of phone hanging up.]
"'My employment with Red Seal Homes is a private matter,' Torres wrote in an e-mail to the Tribune. 'Congressman Gutierrez had nothing to do with my employment at Red Seal Homes.'"
A) Maybe he hung up accidentally. He'll be calling back any minute now.
B) Or maybe he'll just e-mail in a statement. What's the emoticon for a phone hanging up?
C) I didn't even use Congressman Gutierrez as a reference! Somehow they already knew . . .
"Carothers, Mitts and Gutierrez supported rezoning the Galewood Yards project to allow Boender to build a 14-screen movie theater and a nearly $60 million residential development of 187 single-family homes, townhouses and condos. The zoning change meant an extra $3 million in Boender's pockets."
Just another Chicago Co . . .
"Boender faces charges that he bribed Carothers in exchange for the alderman's pushing the project through City Hall and over the objection of city planners."
Just another Chi . . .
"The Tribune has reported that Boender, a friend and golfing buddy of Gutierrez, lent Gutierrez $200,000 in a real estate deal about the time the congressman was lobbying Mayor Richard Daley to back Galewood Yards."
Just anoth . . .
"'After Mr. Carothers found out that Mr. Gutierrez's sister-in-law was working for Red Seal, Mr. Carothers became upset and wondered why Red Seal could not be working with his brother,' according to court records."
"Brian Hoffman, Red Seal's vice chairman and chief financial officer, declined to comment."
By hanging up the phone or sending an e-mail?
"Mitts' daughter, LaTonya Mitts, said she got the job on her own.
"'I had the skills and I applied,' LaTonya Mitts said.
"Ald. Mitts said her daughter worked as an hourly maintenance laborer on the project for three to six months.
"'One of my primary goals as alderman is to provide jobs and economic empowerment and opportunity for my constituents,' Mitts said. 'Several constituents, including my daughter, applied and after a review of their qualifications, were hired.'"
Nobody even knew who LaTonya's mother was!
"Gutierrez also had real estate dealings with Boender in the 1000 block of West Fulton Avenue. Boender in 2004 began selling lots there to investors, who included Gutierrez and Stanley Walczak.
"Walczak's son was an intern for Gutierrez in Washington."
Oh for godsakes!
"Walczak and Gutierrez several years ago invested in a real estate deal in which the congressman made at least $70,000 in profits."
No wonder I didn't get that internship. I wasn't "qualified."
"Court records identified Walczak - acting at the direction of Boender - as having arranged for improvements to Ald. Carothers' home."
And it comes full circle. Thank you for playing!
"Walczak declined to comment."
It wasn't that way when NBC first embarked on a new Web strategy that I thought was smart and had potential. But when the site relaunched under a new managing editor with no foundation in journalism and a cleavage obsession, things changed.
Suddenly us writers weren't supposed to attribute the news we were writing about to its source, we were to pretend we came up with it by ourselves. Right from our little apartments.
"We don't quote publications, we only quote people," I was told by another new editor.
That meant not quoting from publications, either. They would just take the quote marks off. "That's plagiarism!" I railed. To dumbfoundedness. So I worked around it my own way, writing my posts in a way that would mostly prevent mischief, even as I was told that the strategy was to take other people's stories and "make them our own!"
I hope I didn't do this. My strategy was to find angles and commentary on what was in the news and give due credit. At the same time, I warned the bosses: You can't do that. That is stealing, just what aggregators are so often wrongly accused of doing.
To no avail.
I also warned that rewriting other people's stories in which the words were chosen with at least some measure of care would inevitably lead to errors as facts, nuances and context got muddied. Indeed, the site was - and is - littered with errors and mischaracterizations. I have a long list of them just from my time there alone.
Most important, though, is that the absence of any sort of basic journalist framework extends to the top - to the president of NBC Universal's local news division, who is a sales guy. None of the folks involved in this scandal, to my knowledge, have faced any consequences for what they did. They all kept their jobs. They showed what they were willing to do - trade integrity for career security and future advancement - and they've been rewarded.
But no one should believe anything that comes out of their shop. How could you?
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Posted on March 8, 2010
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