March 2, 2012 1:55 pm
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR --
In response to the Poytner article about our cese and desist letter, I received the following Letter to the Editor.
Dear Mr. Myers:
I was fascinated by your short piece entitled “Aggressive local blogger served with cease-and-desist letter”,
so I read the linked article.
I was surprised to find that I came away with a completely different sense of what happened than when I read your condensed version.
Firstly, I am not sure how you can omit covering the following sentence from the first paragraph of the article:
“His most recent target has been the wild financial mismanagement of the City of Lauderdale Lakes, which in recent days has been revealed to have used all kinds of crazy, stupid accounting techniques to balance a budget that was, in reality, about as balanced as Lindsay Lohan.”
and start your coverage with:
- The description of Mr. Stevens being “a hard puppy to love” which doesn’t appear until the 16th paragraph.
- The tagline from Mr. Stevens’ website, which is not even mentioned in the New Times article.
- The characterization that “he’s not opposed to referring to public officials with profane nicknames”, which is actually untrue. The article to which that statement links specifically says that when he began his second stint on the city’s housing authority, he stated that he would NO LONGER use such nomenclature.
- Your quote of him characterizing the city finance department (to what turns out to be their unresponsiveness to his FOIA requests) as drinking margaritas too early in the day.
This all happens below your headline about the cease-amd-desist order which most readers would interpret as resulting from Mr. Stevens’ [over]aggressiveness. You also fail to mention that the order came from the father of the city manager.
This also all happens above the “(more…)” fold. If one does not click on the “(more…)”, one does not even get to find out that Mr. Stevens may have some redeeming features.
In short, you paint Mr. Stevens as a filthy blogger rather than the investigative reporter he has proven himself to be. You seem to be pursuing the messenger rather than the truth.
In this day of limited journalism budgets, one would think that Mr. Stevens’ efforts to inform his fellow citizens about the mismanagement of their city would be appreciated rather than denigrated, He is doing the job professional journalists should be performing. The New Times certainly shows appreciation in the way they portray him in the few articles I have read. In contrast, your portrayal of him can easily result in a chilling effect for other citizen journalists.
Mr. Myers, your job as a journalist is to speak truth to power, not enable it. And Poynter purports to be a bastion of journalistic principles and ethic. You and Poynter have failed in this instance to live up to one of your initiatives to “make sense of the news”. Rather, you have transformed it.
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