Saturday, July 18, 2015

Fighting against the truth

The Amarillo Globe-News, without notice or explanation, shut down comments on its website a couple of days ago. Then, Friday, it posted a story outlining the situation.

The Globe-News quoted the publisher, Les Simpson, thus, “But allowing those on our website to call out people by name and make accusations against them — sometimes criminal — isn’t fair and won’t be tolerated in the future unless you put your name by it. And even then, comments that make factual claims that aren’t substantiated may be deleted even if the author is known.”

I truly believe this arises out of some of the solid and scathing deconstruction of Downtown Amarillo Inc., Les and the whole hotel-garage-ball park thing. Les has a huge ego and he and his allies are fighting to preserve this three-legged deal. Of course, if he has more invested than ego, he may have more motivation to stifle dissent. And none of this discussion on the Globe-News site was at risk until the composition of the City Council changed and put the Wallace Bajjali plans at risk. So, let’s see if Les plays this fair and square.

Further, the reason I valued being anonymous was on the basis that Les or whomever would have me blocked or banned knowing who I really was as a poster. He or whomever did so when they learned that I was, in fact, posting as “kumquat” (my homage to W.C. Fields). That said, I will defend the Globe-News’ right to ban or block anyone or any reason. It’s their circus and their monkeys.

After a hiatus, I returned to post as opinionista after the pro-Wallace Bajjali-DAI plan propaganda became intolerable and devoid of any truth. By the way, I identified myself about two months ago after Melissa Dailey, DAI’s $134,000-per-year executive director, tried to hide her identity with her maiden name as a handle. It will be interesting to see if Les will let me in if he knows my real name.

It will also be interesting to see what “standards” he sets about substantiating posts, especially in light of the way the AGN slants news, mostly by acts of omission. Here’s the thing, and it derives from one of my favorite quotes, one by Dag Hammarskj√∂ld, “The madman shouted in the marketplace and no one stopped to answer him. Thus it was confirmed that his thesis was incontrovertible.”

I will also defend any news outlet’s right to handle content as it sees fit. But as a journalist, I won’t defend an outlet’s removal of the wall between news and opinion; and, I won’t defend the removal of the wall between the news and business side; and, I won’t defend the removal of the wall between the news and the outlet’s political agenda. The Globe-News didn’t maintain those walls when I worked there and my view is that it doesn’t do so now.

Les wouldn’t let one major story that could have won the paper an award had he let it see the light of day. And I can tell you about at least one other story in which editors ignored the substantive issues in the story. Both of those stories would have cast Baptist St. Anthony's Health System in a negative light and it was a struggle to get the leadership of the Globe-News to give Northwest Texas Healthcare System a fair shake.

By the way, the story about BSA’s charity care subsequently ran in The Amarillo Independent and got gratifying support.

You don’t have to buy my assertions above any more than you have to buy my opinions. But what strikes me about all this is that Amarillo as a community deserves better. I tried to give it better with The Amarillo Independent and try to counter the Globe-News’ slanting of news as best I can with my blogging and with the posting on the Globe-News website. I also am trying to contribute to more investigative reporting in this community to balance the Globe-News by working with ABC 7 News/KVII as a consultant. The prior general manager there valued my input, sometimes referring to Les and Wallace Bajjali as “The Music Man.” I hope the new GM will support those efforts.

I am perfectly willing to post on the Globe-News site openly. I would challenge the Globe-News to maintain an open dialogue in the community, but will be surprised if the new policies settle in that direction. Given its news philosophy, why would it? And, I would ask, what motivated the Globe-News to make this change? Who pressured Les?

As I’ve said, let’s see what happens.


  1. With comments disabled, the AGN is into a full court press. In Sunday's paper, John Mark Beilue has two versions of a story about how well Ft. Wayne, Indiana is doing with its new ballpark, hotel and garage, insisting that that proves it can happen here despite rather obvious differences. Then the Sunday editorial insists that the city council members need to vote rather than ask for the public's opinion, citing as bad examples the votes on selling NWTH and a smoking ban, but forgetting their most favorite, the downtown design standards, and their least favorite, the ARC. Dave Henry's column takes the new members to task for failing to present a fully fleshed-out alternative to the existent plan, praising the wisdom of Eades and Harpole for supporting it. Clearly, they (you decide who "they" are) are scared to death of having this submitted to a public vote, of delaying commitment to collect better information, or anything else which might break the tenuous bonds to the only entities willing to consider doing the hotel, ballpark and garage deals with them. I commented on the AGN Facebook page, but realize facts don't matter when you're in too deep to turn around (remember Pete Seeger's "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy"?).

    Les Reese

  2. I think Simpson, the AGN and the rich and powerful backing the downtown package are frightened that the proposal will be submitted to the voters, delayed until better information is made available, or simply rejected by the new council members. Sunday's newspaper has two articles drawing comparisons to Ft. Wayne and two editorials insisting that this is a matter for the council, not the voters, and castigating the new members for failing to present a fully-detailed alternate plan. I just hope Nair, Burkett and Demerson stick to their promises despite threats, bribes or the stifling of public input.

  3. I just hope the three new council members stick to their promises and are not dissuaded by intimidation or inducements. The AGN and the downtown project pushers and speculators are clearly fearful that the MPEV will be submitted tot he voters, delayed for accumulation of better data or flat voted down by the newbies, triggering the implosion of the whole scheme.